I am back in the office today, working onsite for the first time since mid-December. I expected to work from home for a couple of days before winter break, but then on the first day of that break, a work from home period was announced for after that break, and then on the last day of that period, I came down with something (not COVID), and now here we are, a week later, finally back in the office. What does it all mean.
Does it all mean anything? Probably not. Today around lunchtime was the longest I had been away from my (still nursing) toddler since mid-December. On the one hand, my head is clearer and I have been better able to focus than for most of the days when work from home was punctuated with joyful (and other) screams, with tiny hands at the door, with “MAMA YOU DONE WORKIN'” as a statement rather than a question.
On the other, when I read this comic, I cried because how many more times will that toddler run to me, call for me, fall asleep curled up in my arms? It’s not that long ago – and yet it is a distant memory – that the big kid did those things, and now, like the child in the comic, he mostly walks on his own and is starting to keep his own counsel, to open up to us separately and selectively, to keep his hands in his own pockets more often than he slips them into ours.
The last two years have been largely devoid of landmarks, mostly just a series of days spent mostly together. We haven’t gone anywhere. We have rarely seen anyone. We have had some small adventures, most of them within a few miles of home. We are all older than when this began, and some of us are taller.
But as is the way of getting older and taller, it doesn’t happen all at once, just an ongoing processional of cells dividing, finding their place, and dying, making microscopic adjustments until one day your pants are too short, or your hair is a different color, or faces once familiar have new features all of their own.
Which I guess is what this means: that for awhile, I was home, and then I wasn’t, and then I was again, and now I’m not. And like many parents that were home, and now are not, it means that I won’t be there for the screaming and the blanket forts and the constant demands for snacks, but it also means that I won’t be there for the moment of disappointment when the exciting program is canceled, or for the moment of mastery when the right combination of stacked things produces access to the forbidden shelf, or for the last time quiet time turns into an unexpected nap, and it’s the accumulation of those moments that make a life.