Small Wonders: Yesterday and 100 years ago

There were times when I couldn't wait for them to get older.

To be able to hold up their own heads.

To crawl or walk.

To eat with their own hands.

To clean up after and dress themselves.

Though they still haven't mastered the last one, they are quite proficient at the others. Heck, I still have trouble dressing myself.

Spring, with all its rebirth, renewal and awakening, is upon us. It's right up there with winter, summer and fall as one of my favorite seasons. It's a time to look forward with hope and anticipation, even though the end of the school year is looming — an end that comes far too early in Burbank: Memorial Day weekend. (Which means starting the next school year in mid-August with heat waves, smog alerts and kids sequestered unhappily in air-conditioned classrooms. But that's a rant for another column, another day.)

Second, third, fourth. School years are perhaps the best benchmarks for the recall of childhood memories. The external building blocks of our personality are formed in the daily routines and structure of each semester and grade, mysteriously seared into our genetic code.

Spring and the waning school year also bring Open House, a chance to walk through someone else's world and investigate their rooms, see how they've painted them, decorated them and taken care with what they've been given. Loved ones pierce the veil of their children's lives to briefly glimpse who these little mysteries are, what they do and how they conduct themselves when not under our watchful eyes.

We parents gather to ooh and aah at their achievements, to marvel at papier-mâché masks, plaster models and watercolor countrysides of imaginary lands; to beam with pride at handwritten essays about their role models, crayon self-portraits that bear striking resemblance to Modigliani masterpieces, science experiments and demonstrations charting the popularity of favorite pets.

But through the crowded halls, past the artwork and scribbles, the demonstrations and presentations, all I see in my mind's eye are babies.


Yours and mine.

When did this happen?

Thing 1 came into the world begrudgingly, past her arrival date, coaxed from the womb. She cheered her own entrance with a joyous noise. The nurses told us that of the nine babies born that night at Verdugo Hills Hospital, ours was the loudest. Wise beyond her years and with much to say, she remains as strong of mind, intense and exuberant, 10 years later.

Thing 2 had much to do and so she made her arrival quickly, eager to explore this new world, climb its trees and run upon its dirt paths and concrete sidewalks. A young lady with a never-ending agenda is she, always in motion, with no fear of adventure. Now eight years on, “seize the day” seems an insufficient motto to contain her.

Their striking, compassionate and penetrating blue eyes watch the world, study their surroundings and create castles where once there were windmills. Eyes that see so much more than I ever thought possible. Eyes that see straight through their father, piercing his heart in painful sentimentality.

Those same eyes that looked up at us in wonder, fear, awe and dependence on Day 1 now look at us so much wiser and self-reliant — but still the same. It was 100 years ago. And it was yesterday.

And now as summer draws near, another chapter of school too quickly comes to an end; one more invitation to walk through their open house sadly past — and I see the door getting that much closer to shutting. The specter of teenage years, middle and high school is unstoppably bearing down on us faster than I can comprehend.

And I look at these two Things dashing through grade school halls, amazed by their very existence, marveled by their creation and utterly dumbfounded by their beauty, wit, grace and spirit.

I wish I could stop time now.

To catch my breath and remember them forever just as they are today: annoying and lovely, stubborn and gracious, loud and so tender.

And sweeter than golden honey.

Because next year is coming fast. Far too fast. And with too few opportunities to tell them just how proud I am of them, to be welcomed in their open house in spring.

There were times when I couldn't wait for them to get older. There were.

PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the book “Crooked Little Birdhouse.” Friend him on Facebook. Contact him at Read more at

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