Dear Future Me,

Do you remember that gray February day when they were all gone unexpectedly? Josh was at a week-long camp, Nat was in college, and Eli had a spontaneous sleepover at a friend’s house. You weren’t expecting to be alone. It just happened.

Remember when the kids were so young and you felt desperate for a break, for even a few hours alone? You can probably still feel it – that weight of being regularly overwhelmed as a mom of very young children. Then, years later, just the other day in fact, when time alone was still a rarity-  yet not as pressing of an issue- an opportunity to be alone availed itself, and you found you really weren’t quite prepared for it.

Do you remember how you reluctantly said “yes” when he asked about the sleepover? You had been looking forward to one-on-one time with him. In retrospect, you could have said “no”, and picked Thursday night instead. Saying “yes” was something you regretted, as you thought sticking to your original plan should have been kept as a priority. Remember wanting to turn around and bring him home?  

The snow had unexpectedly melted the week prior, in mid-February, a month ahead of the usual thawing scenario. Our area had had unusually mild temperatures, and the dull green grass was visible after weeks of being smothered in snow and ice. Just days ago, you were in the driveway, chipping away at the ice on the first day it was above freezing. With the help of a hoe, shovels, and Elijah and Natalie, you three got that ice chipped and scraped off, and the driveway safe to walk on again. It wouldn’t have been possible to clear away in a normal winter, but that was not a normal winter; it was unseasonably warm for a Midwestern winter.  You had Nat home from college for a few days, but Josh was at a tournament that week. Do you remember that day? The sun was shining.                  

You collapsed on the couch, after dropping Josh off at the camp an hour and a half away, and Eli at his friend’s house, and never quite recovered. You did something you rarely do: watch TV while eating dinner. You brought your dinner to the couch and watched the news, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune like a zombie. After that, you amused yourself by watching Antiques Roadshow, and then wasted time on Facebook and mindless internet searching. 

Is this what old people do? Minus the internet surfing?

You decided you didn’t want to be old yet. 

So you ended up writing this letter to yourself, to remember those moments, that particular day, the surprise you felt, and the confusion. You did it as a reminder to plan and think ahead to those years. 

 Those 24 hours gave you a feel for the future; it was a day of a sort of solitary confinement. It could have been fun, but it wasn’t. Maybe it was the unexpectedness of it all, but that was only part of the reason.  The “empty nest” feeling was way too empty. Boring. Dull. Lifeless. Endless. The good news, though, was that you weren’t quite at the empty nest stage yet. You had a few more years before it became a daily reality. You had more time to prepare.

So you tasted a sip of the wine of later years, uncovered, wiped away… a sneak peek. It was a myriad of emotions, mostly a kind of wistful loneliness. It highlighted even more all that was wrong with the picture: then and now.   

Your eyes were like the sky, awash in gray, and you felt like the bare grass, exposed before the time was ready. You felt something boring a hole in your insides. It was like that.  

You know that the long dark season is coming, yet you dread the winter nonetheless. You know spring is coming, but it seems to take its own sweet time in arriving. You know summer will eventually appear, but the days flit by like flying insects while you are in the midst of them.

Life is like that.