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Children and the Corn

Nothing reminds me of how fast summer is rolling by than cornfields. Just yesterday, it seemed, the corn was knee-high. Now it’s as high as, well, an elephant’s eye. This is what I tell my girls every time we drive to the beach, passing cornfields along the way. They usually roll their eyes while I whistle the tune from “Oklahoma.”

Children and the corn. Both are growing so fast. And there’s no better reminder than summer, particularly this one.

I realize you can’t fight change; you have to roll with it, adapt to it, accept it. Cornstalks, stretching up to meet the cerulean sky, remind me how quickly life is passing. Winter can seem endless, with its gray afternoons and freezing rain pelting your skin like BBs. But summer ends before we’re ready.

Summer stirs the senses. Golden light casting long shadows on freshly mowed grass. Crickets and cicadas increasing their crescendo as the end of August nears. Fire flies flickering and looping around the treetops. Basil and mint, the quintessential scents of summer. Maybe we wouldn’t appreciate--or notice--it as much if it lasted longer. In the summertime, you can literally see the passage of time, whether it’s a cornstalk, a swelling zucchini or a ripe tomato growing heavy on the vine. And it’s a reminder of everything else that’s growing, particularly children.

This summer, I went from being Mommy to Mom. My younger daughter, Katherine, would say, “Mom, Mom, you’re not listening?” I would turn to her, suddenly realizing she was talking to me. Up until this point, I was “Mommy.”

“Mom” almost sounds like a bad word. I’m still adjusting to it.

In June, my 16-year-old daughter, Peyton, flew off to Spain on a school trip. She lived with a family that spoke little English. It was her first trip to Europe, and she went without me.

On Facebook, I’d see pictures of her frolicking in a floral sundress along the streets of Seville. She texted me about taking the metro and the bus, something she never does at home. She wrote of her conversations with her Spanish family discussing gun control and American politics. At one point, when I asked if she was having fun, she replied, “Yes, but this is not a vacation; it’s work. My brain literally hurts from thinking in Spanish.”

When I dropped her at Dulles, there were no tears on her part. I, on the other hand, had to contain myself. Like Speaker Boehner, I’m not always successful at reigning in the waterworks. Grabbing a pen from the ticket counter to fill out her luggage tag, I knew I was in trouble. The lump kept growing, tears welling. Swallow it, I told myself. Don’t make a scene. I could hear my own mother admonishing me, “We don’t cry in public.”

“Mommy, you’re not going to cry are you?” Peyton asked, with a mix of amusement and concern.

She called me “Mommy.”

And cry, I did.

And off she flew, over the green cornfields swaying in the breeze of a summer afternoon.