It started in September.
Buckle tiny Oliver into his carseat, put Gabe's shoes on, load them in the van. Drive fifteen minutes to Colin's school to pick him up. Arrive early to find a spot in the crowded parking lot, and to be there when the kindergartners came out (oh please let me be there before they are!). Slowly walk my postpartum body over to the sidewalk, with muscles that feel unused and a back that aches.
Oliver, you slept every day through the drive and then through the transfer to the blue sling I wore. You settled right in, blanketed by my warm chest and the warm, muggy air. Everyone smiled and asked how old you were, and the German teacher asked twice where she could buy a sling for her friend. As long as you were fed beforehand, the trip was just a lullaby.
Gabriel, the trip over sometimes lulled you to sleep as well. You were sometimes moody but always obedient, holding my hand through the parking lot and waiting patiently in the shade of the hot sun to see your big brother come around the corner ("Mom, I see Colin!"). You seemed to take it all in stride, but I wondered if you noticed everyone asking about the baby. When they noticed you as well, you turned your head away and scowled. The scowl disappeared with the arrival of your big brother and you didn't scowl when his friends noticed you.
Colin, I worried about you a lot in those days. You went to bed crying every night. Was this the normal adjustment, or was it more? Every day when I stood waiting, I prepared myself to inspect your face. Would I see signs of distress? Sadness? As soon you came into my view, and I came into your view, an exuberant and relieved smile would appear on your face. You hugged me and told me whether you had art or PE or media, and I probably asked too many questions. Who did you play with? What color did you get? Wasn't it fun?
Then we waited together for Santiago, and my heart stopped beating for three minutes as I guided three distracted boys through a busy parking lot to my van.
It was our daily ritual from 2:20-3:30. Off to school and home again as a family.
I figured out exactly what time I had to start the process to be there on time and where to park so that we wouldn't have to worry about being run over. My back stopped aching, and slowly we added layers of clothing.
One autumnal day I motioned to Gabe to stand in the shade and then realized that it now fell five feet away from the sidewalk.
Oliver, the crossing guard laughed out loud the first time she saw your bright eyes and then again when she finally saw you out of the sling.
Rainy days. Windy cold days. We all trekked through it together.
Then it thawed and you boys picked weeds together, pressing your crushed green gifts into my palms. Oliver stopped sitting on my hip and insisted on the grass. Colin's classmates took turns pulling him up and laughing at his teeth.
Gabe wore sandals again, Colin was back in shorts, and the baby went barefoot.
Until finally, on Wednesday, we made that final trip for the school year. The German teacher who asked about the sling stood out with her very pregnant belly. I looked over your little bodies - grown so much since the fall - and searched my memories to capture the other changes. A more independent and self-assured Colin. A more humorous and social Gabe. A baby who now has opinions and a sense of humor. I couldn't possibly realize all the changes.
All those days, and those seemingly routine hours, gone forever. I teared up on the drive home.
And that question that I ask myself more and more often each year -
Where did the time go?