A few nights ago, Zoe and Alexander re-discovered their substantial collection of capes, which were stored in the attic just waiting for the next time a cape might be the perfect garb. Since it’s the beginning of October, that time, apparently, is upon us. The kids each have three capes: a Harry Potter robe, which was ordered from a website for last year’s Halloween costume (flannel, hooded, kind of cosy), a dracula cape from an earlier Halloween (shiny, slinky, with a big stand-up collar), and an “invisibility cloak” that my mom made for them (diaphanous, light-weight, slightly sparkly). The new revelation was that all three capes could be worn together! The effect was stunning and dramatic. Much excitement ensued. Wheels began to turn as to how the capes could be used for this year’s Halloween costume.
But for Alexander, Halloween wasn’t soon enough. He explained his vision to me: him, standing high atop the monkey bars on the school playground, dressed all in black, dark clouds rolling across the sky, cape flowing out behind him in the wind. This plan could not be deferred; the next morning, the Harry Potter cape was stuffed into his backpack so that he could carry out his plan.
Things like this kind of break my heart. First, there is something so vulnerable, sweet, and true about putting your fantasy on the line for all to see. It’s something grown-ups don’t do very often. I can’t help but hope that all will go as envisioned and that he won’t be embarrassed or disappointed. But, also, I know this wild imaginary play won’t last too much longer. My guess is that in one or two years, Zander won’t be caught dead in a Harry Potter cape, especially on the school playground.
As adults, we can revive our interests, re-enter phases of our lives at will. I can start writing poetry again or train for a bike race, even if I haven’t done so in years. But as our children grow up, they don’t go back. I know it’s been said a thousand times before, but it’s true that these sweet times are fleeting and emphemeral.
What’s really sad is that I have very little memory of the happy, adorable moments in my children’s lives. My recollection of the early years of parenthood is either blurry or clouded with a sense of stress. It’s only when I come across a journal entry describing their behavior as babies, or look back on photos I haven’t seen for a long time, that the wonder of this parenthood thing hits me all over again. Our recordings of these days and years are far from complete, but I’m so thankful they exist.
As for Zander and the billowing cape, I asked when I picked him up if he had, in fact, worn his cape on the playground as planned. He said that he had, and he seemed happy enough with how things had gone, though I didn’t really get much detail about it. He was moving on already.