Kelley J. Leigh

Loud World. Quiet Soul. Listen beyond the noise.

Rear View Mirrors


rear view mirror


Too Brief to Measure

The cry will be a relief. Even so, I dread it like a natural catastrophe.

I sit in the back seat of our family truckster, knees propped against the drivers seat. I sit there because my legs are the shortest in the family. We are on our way to drop off my third son for his first year of college. My husband drives the long western highway. Two of the remaining four brothers sit shotgun and back seat. They lean in to chat with their Dad. After this trip, only one son will live with us at home.

Mountains in the distance on the right, flat plains to the left, and above us sprawls a clear blue morning sky streaked with wispy clouds. Long yellow lane-lines ride off ahead of us to a flat point where the sky meets the asphalt.

We speed toward the horizon.

The constant nag of tears stored behind my eyes feels like the flutter of closed curtains just minutes before a disastrous wind blows through the open window and scatters all the papers off the desk.

It’s coming. A sad surge builds like a storm somewhere in my lungs, or my trachea, or maybe my sternum. I visualize my arms around my son’s ribs in the inevitable goodbye, and a rush of breath detours the regular mouth exit and runs amuck in my skull then pounds on the backs of my eyeballs.

Road markers zip past my window like low-flying self-propelled objects.

I glance at the rear view mirror and remember a dark orange sunset on a different vacation. Back when my days were full of diapers, and children’s books — back when my legs were longer than theirs — I sat shotgun next to my husband. On that journey, we traveled east. The sun set behind us. I glanced into the rear view mirror to check on the brothers; two in car seats, two in seat belts, all with heads that barely reached the head rests and windows. They were all quiet, staring out the window or sleeping. Intense hot oranges of sunset morphed into cool blues and painted my sons with a wash of twilight.

All four faces fit, framed perfectly inside the one small mirror. A sixteen year old version of myself woke up to the sight of those boys and started a present-tense reckoning.

“How did I get here? How are these my children? I am married and have children?! When did this all happen?”

Rip Van Winkle dumbstruck, like one big waking surprise,“THIS is my life?!”

The present-day mirror reflects the smile lines worn and grooved in my middle-aged face. The new morning sky disappears in our wake anf I sigh with the goodness of so many fleeting moments, “This is my life.”

Freeway lines speed out from under the car and race in the opposite direction. Time dashes under our tires and away in the distance. My sons’ chatty voices fill the car. My eyes begin to sting like a burn in need of dousing. The extinguishing flood quietly gathers. I know the grieving cry will arrive eventually because sad tears travel the same road as joy.

We ride in the present, between what was and what is to come, in the middle, where the swift rushing weight of bitter sweetness is almost too beautiful to bear. And this is the stuff of faith and courage, to choose to live and fully feel it all.



4 Replies

  1. so TRUE to what exactly has been going thru my mind!I still have an eight year old, two inbetween and then a 19 year old. I KNOW how fast and furious these years go with the experience of my oldest. I want to freeze frame, I am not sure I would know what to do without my boys near me. One day at a time, the Lord knows, this is what I have comfort in. Great post!
    marlece recently posted…sixteenMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your response, Marlece! Clearly you are a fellow boy-mom and get this post … so glad you stopped by.
      Kelley J Leigh recently posted…Rear View MirrorsMy Profile

  2. Ah yes, these feelings. Beautiful written! (Goal met!)
    Angela Giles Klocke recently posted…That time I made a deal with GodMy Profile

    1. Thanks writer friend. : )
      Kelley J Leigh recently posted…Canaries in a Coal MineMy Profile

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