I roll the window down and the cool breeze catches in my hair. We're driving home and the road is deserted. We haven't passed a car in a while, so I turn the radio up and rest my chin on my arm in the window. I close my eyes and breathe in the country surroundings, the smell of an oncoming storm and fresh soil drift over me. As I open my eyes I look into the woods we’re driving through; they are dark and are coated with a thick fog sitting heavily on the mossy floor. I can hear owls perched in trees cooing into the night. As the moonlight descends on the lake beside us, a soft melody flows from the speakers. It's a song about love and lost time. I let the lyrics wash over me as I watch the world fly by my window.
I start to think about memories from throughout the years. My fourth birthday, my first day of school, it all starts flashing in time with the trees. The memories keep coming, up until this moment. This moment, when I begin to think about the future.
I have a sudden flash of an empty room that I use to call mine and boxes in an unfamiliar place. I see my mom crying as she gets in the car to drive away, and right then it dawns on me that in a few more years I will be alone in a place that's not my home. The memories begin to flash again, now painful to watch.
My mom waking me up at 6:15 every year on my birthday, blinding me with her camera. I see myself, waiting as long as I possibly could until I ran into her room on Christmas morning and dragged her out of bed. My mom greeting me every morning with a smile and a kiss to the forehead while the babies played. It all hits me so hard I can't breath. Never again will I have any of that. Once I leave, everything will change. Phone calls instead of hugs. Birthday cards in the mail instead of the traditional morning wake up. How can I be content knowing this is all changing?
One day I'll have a job and a family of my own. My childhood will be long behind me, a distant past to look back on and smile about, but in this moment, I don't want to look back. I want time. I want more than the years we’re given to be with our family. I want to enjoy my youth, relish in the carelessness it brings and the time to spend with the ones I love. Why can't I press pause, just for a little while?
We are forced to grow up and mature so quickly we never think to stop and take a break, to really appreciate everything our childhood and family has to offer. We all have a short amount of time on earth. One day our family will be gone and we will be left thinking back and regretting not spending more time with them. We will regret choosing the friends that eventually became strangers instead of family game night. We will regret not cherishing the little moments that can mean so much just because we weren't in the mood and would rather be anywhere else. I remember missing my sisters first real crawl because I insisted that I needed a break from all the noise and frustration, I ended up staying with a friend that night and coming home to find out the momentous step I had missed and can never get back.
As I think about this I can feel my chest tighten and my eyes beginning to sting. I squeeze them shut to keep it all in then stare back up at the moon. I can hear the babies sleeping in the backseat and I smile to myself as my mom sings along with radio. These are the moments I want to remember, the little moments that fill me with joy and hope. I'm leaving soon and that devastates me, so I tend to push the thoughts away and focus on the now, because weather or not I'm ready for adulthood it's here and I need to come to terms with it.
The lake is gone and is now replaced by long pastures with grazing horses. The world is eerily quiet as we pass through a tunnel made of trees stretching across the road. My mom grabs my hand and points at the canopy above.”Make a wish,” she whispers, smiling at me. And just before the tunnel ends, I whisper my wish into the wind letting it float along the breeze into the waiting night.