Life is a flurry of motion and activity with 1 preteen and 3 teenage girls: volleyball practice, musical theatre, doctor’s appointments, school, dance, dinners, homework, making lunches, stories about boyfriends, stories about mean girls, barking dogs chasing cats, singing, dance parties, sleepovers… and then, just last night, all was quiet. Crypt-quiet. A few kids were off at their evening activities, others in their rooms studying.

I stood in the kitchen, stunned and alone. I realized that this flurry of motion is reaching its critical mass, soon to be gone forever.

When they were all tiny (and I happened to be homeschooling), the days wore on and the months seemed never-ending and the years seemed endless. I didn’t mind it; in fact, I loved being surrounded by the love and chaos that I naively assumed would last to my dying days.

Then, just this month, shit began to get real. I ordered graduation announcements for one. College recruiters are constantly after another, and she just created her senior schedule. Yet another is planning to be gone this summer at theatre camp in Nebraska…and doesn’t need my help arranging it. The “baby” is whispering on her cell phone and giggling about boys.

I watched some young moms today at the gym rushing around after their toddlers; some of these toddlers had managed to strip down to their underwear, others  were trailing 85 crackers behind them. I remember, viscerally, the frustration and never-ending neediness of having babies. I thought it would never end.

Then, I blinked. And it’s ending.

I’m going to put away all that is not necessary, for now. The wisp of time that these girls are with me is going to be gone in an instant. I grieve this. I rejoice in this. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I’m not going to let it rob me of the present.

This moment, with them arguing with each other around the dinner table, is mine…and I will store it like treasure in my heart.