The boys and I were hanging out in our front yard one afternoon. Summer has already arrived in Baltimore, bringing with it damp heat and the drone of insects. The late-day sun slanted through the Japanese maple, casting a burnished glow on the overgrown lawn, scattered with plastic toys. From my perch on the front steps, I had a close-up view of the sidewalk that was — as usual — decorated with multicolored chalk drawings. Snakes and butterflies navigated around the weeds sprouting from cracks here and there.
A man in an expensive sedan drove by. Twice. The second time, he stopped the car, rolled down the window and said, “How are you enjoying the house?” Just as I started to think, Who IS this creepy guy? He added, “We sold it to you.” Oh, yeah. I thought he looked familiar.
We spent a few minutes catching up. His daughter, then a young teen, had just graduated college, he told me. Yes, I said, these 2 little boys scootering around me were my sons, both born since we’d bought the house. Almost all of the old neighbors had moved, making room for a new wave of young couples and families who now lived on the street, I told him. I made him promise not to tell his wife that we’d let her beautiful yard go to seed. I mean, weeds. He said the deer ate everything she planted at their new place.
“So how is the new house?” I asked him.
“Good…” he replied. “We miss the old neighborhood.”
“It’s a great neighborhood,” I agreed. “We love living here.” Then he drove off with a wave.
I couldn’t help but wonder what had spurred this man to drive by his old house in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Curiosity? Nostalgia? To me, he sounded a little wistful as we were talking. He had lived in our house for close to 16 years. Raised a family there. Celebrated milestone birthdays there. Raked the leaves and shoveled the walk. I’m sure he had lots of fond memories of the place.
Now he had a bigger house in a better zip code. A fancy car. A child who’d grown up and graduated from a good college. He probably paid someone to mow his lawn and shovel the snow now. Isn’t that what we all want?
Like moms of small children everywhere, people are always telling me to enjoy this time with them while they’re young. In the blink of an eye they’ll be teenagers, they warn us. Then college graduates. Then gone.
As I fasten the bike helmet under my 3yo’s chin, taking care not to pinch his soft, downy skin, I can’t resist giving him a smooch. He smells of sunscreen and little-boy sweat. I push his damp bangs to the side and plant another kiss on him before he pulls away, off and running again. But not me. I’m in no hurry today.