Bumper Stickers Can Wait

By Kate Kole

It’s usually bumper stickers that start it.

I’ll be walking my son in his stroller, watching him pull at his socks and kick his legs happily as he woofs back at dogs in the neighborhood. I’m usually listening to a podcast about motherhood, nodding my head as the women I’ve self-declared as friends talk about how they do mornings and meal times and meet other moms.

I’ll catch a glimpse of a bumper sticker as a minivan rolls by. Something about dance or soccer. My mind will start to wander. I’ll begin imagining recitals and open fields. I’ll think of our blonde little boy chasing a ball. I picture buns and tutus. Orange slices and Gatorade. Cheering on sidelines and carpool lines. 

My mind fast forwards to the years ahead. The ones that no longer involve diaper changes and nap schedules. Stepping on hard plastic toys and listening to animated voices. Yogurt pouches and crushed up Cheerios. Those that are instead marked by Saturday morning games and donut runs. Movie nights and PTA meetings.

And then, just as quickly as the thought of the future excites me, I feel a familiar lump in my throat arise. I’m reminded of the flip side. The trade offs of the other kind. 

How I’ll miss the way my toddler runs to me and rests his head on my lap. The speed in which he flips through his Llama Llama books looking for the one I’ve asked him to grab. The way he smiles and reaches for me first thing in the morning. The squeal of his voice when his daddy walks through the door at night.

There are things we give and things we gain in every season. 

I remember when my husband and I first started dating and I longed for the day that we could wear sweatpants and watch football and fall asleep on the couch. When I wouldn’t feel self conscious without makeup on and my hair a mess.

We’re there now. We’re actually beyond there. After childbirth, night sweats, and leaky boobs, it seems nothing is off the table. We’ve officially become one of those couples who announce when we’re going to the bathroom. 

I love the comfort of our relationship. The way it feels like home. Each of us with our own designated side of the bed, sink, and kitchen island. But, of course, I now look back with an added appreciation for those early days. The butterflies that came with the buzz of a text, the giddiness of simply grabbing a cup of coffee together in the morning. 

On the hottest day of the summer, I’ll find myself flipping through Hallmark channel’s Christmas In July lineup. And on the coldest day of winter, I long to dip my toes into sun warmed water. A piece of my heart it seems is always beating for what’s forward or back. 

Some days it feels like I’m rotating between the extremes. Crying at articles describing sending kids to school for the first time. Imagining that I’ll be the mom in the parking lot blowing my nose on whatever scratchy napkin I can find in my glove box, because it just went so fast and how did we get here, already? While others, I’m glancing at the clock, wondering how it’s only 3 p.m., dreaming of the day that I might go to take a shower in the bathroom by myself.

Today, I’m here. Much like the weather outside, I’m in a season of in betweens. Where it’s a cool and crisp 59 degrees in the morning and by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, it’s pushing 80. Where time is moving slow and fast at once. Where I miss what’s over and I crave what’s next. Where bumper stickers have me daydreaming about the future while reminding me to hold tighter to right now.

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