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Half Past Eight {How They Grow Up in a Blink}

half.past.eight.clock I hung up the phone the other day after chatting with my 22 year-old daughter. Our conversation centered around her job as a cosmetologist in a big city four states from me, our plans for seeing her at Thanksgiving and how best to cook a chicken in a crock pot.

After we hung up, I wandered by the front hall on my way to get the mail. It was then that I spied a picture of her as a young girl hanging in our living room. And I saw her beloved original copy of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder now perched on an antique school desk in our entryway.

My thoughts turned to time. Where had it gone? It seems like just yesterday she was bouncing through the house, braids in hair and bonnet strung down her back, pretending she was Laura Ingalls.

Yes, my baby girl is a grown young woman now. Just yesterday it seems she was only eight or nine. It was then that, one fall afternoon, I penned these words:

Half Past Eight

Dear Lord, Where has the time gone? It’s already half past eight.

It seems just a minute ago the clock read one or two.

Just a while ago, you were so tiny, so fragile, and there was so, so much to do: Midnight feedings, endless rocking, learning to do all a new mother must do. I was scared. So were you—your tiny little fingers curled around mine—but we learned together, you and I, and the clock kept ticking.

Every tick, every tock, passed slowly, I thought then. I couldn’t wait to see you talk, then to walk, but each day seemed an eternity. And then your personality began to emerge. You cooed “dada” and strung together random words like a priceless string of pearls. What queen could buy these treasures?

First steps: “Oooohh”—Boom!—“Get up and keep going, honey!” First dresses: “Mommy, I pretty!” “Yes, you are my sweet.”Your first pony ride: I walked so close. You clung so tight. Before too long you begged me to let go. “OK, honey, but just for a moment.”

Everyone from doting grandmas to complete strangers told me how very quickly time would fly, but for me it seemed to march slowly on.

The clock soon struck three. Peter was there. And Flopsy and Mopsy and Cottontail, too. So many hours we spent with them curled up in that old oak rocker. We left them only briefly; to visit with others. Do you remember? Pooh and Piglet, Papa Small and Curious George. They were our gang each afternoon before I lay you in your bed. You were too big by then for your crib. And besides, a new baby bundle of brotherly blue had taken over that corner of your room. “Shhh . . . baby’s sleeping. We’ll read one more and then off to bed, my lamb. It’s nearly half past three.”

The cuckoo clock cheerfully announced the arrival of four. With it came many new adventures. Your first trip to the dentist (you were very brave), staying all night at Grandma’s (how many cookies did you eat?), and Sunday School, birthday parties, and on and on and on. No sooner had the cuckoo tucked back in and shut his wooden doors when the chimes rang out five times.

Is it five already? Where has time gone? The chimes brought with them lace and frills and everything pink. We then spent our afternoons chatting over tea. Pooh and Piglet still visited at times, though not quite as often. For the most part they were replaced with a new found friend. Remember? She met us in the old oak rocker faithfully each day. It was Laura. And Mary. And Carrie. And even that mean old Nellie Olson. Oh how you loved their world! Your curls were replaced with two long braids; your pink with gingham blue. (It was Laura’s favorite too.) You wore that old bonnet strung down on your back and would answer only to “half-pint.” “Pa called Laura that,” you’d insist. So we churned butter and baked biscuits and I learned to answer to “Ma!” (What happened to “Mommy?”)  No time to question. Just look at the time . . . .

Six . . . and then seven. Maybe they were right. Time marched more quickly. You no longer needed me for books. Now you could read by yourself! And often you did as that baby bundle of blue turned into a toddler who simply adored his Big Sis. So we journeyed to the library, blew off the dust and got reacquainted with Peter and friends. You introduced them to your brother who now occupied your lap. “One more time sissy, please just one more!” he would plead. “OK,” you’d answer. “But just this once, brother. It’s getting very late.”

Oh, darling, if you only knew.

And now here we are at half past eight. Who knows at the stroke of twelve what you’ll be? The stork came again. Again he brought blue. “Two brothers. How wonderful!” came your reply to the news. This one came to rest happily upon your left hip. And there he remains perched as you now go about your day. Mixing dough in the Kitchen Aid (what happened to your plastic play stove?) and answering the phone (what about the toy one with the curly cord you dragged behind you all those years. Where is it now?).

You’ve come so far, my baby. From scribbles on scrap paper mailed to loved ones far away to now answering e-mails.  From ribbons and smocked dresses to bobbed hair and bell bottoms. Sometimes I feel as if I’m peering into a mirror from long ago. “Your whole life is ahead of you!” strangers say to my girl. But not for me, for me time speeds by.

Help me make the most of this hour, Lord. I can never live it again. Just look at the clock on the wall. I’m afraid for this mom it is getting very late. Slow the time down dear Lord, please.

It’s already half past eight.


Karen Ehman,

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