525,600 minutes, goes the song. "525,000 moments so dear."
I love that song, and clearly I'm not alone. People walk around singing it. It's catchy and rhythmic, and the title isn't bad either: "Seasons of Love."
I've been singing it a lot lately because I find myself with a one-year deadline. It's a deadline I've known intellectually was coming for 17 years but emotionally have assumed would never arrive. In one year, give or take a few weeks, I will send my second (and final) child off to college.
Just three years ago, I sent his sister off to college, and that was excruciatingly hard, but next year, 525,600 minutes from now, she will be living somewhere on her own (Europe or Los Angeles, she tells me), and he will be away at college. They will both be gone, and I will be here.
Just this past week, I found myself filling out paper work for school and commenting out loud that this was the last time I would ever do this. The paper work started the year the older one started preschool, which means I have been completing these ridiculous forms for 18 years now. The last contact information sheet, the last school photo order form, the last health form. I don't think I will miss any of that.
In fact, I won't miss the chaos and stress of school at all. I won't miss dealing with awful teachers or the cruelty of other children. I won't miss arguing with public school bureaucracy. I won't miss the fundraisers or the committee meetings or the peevishness of other parents who think their own children are saints.
I will miss him.
But I still have this last year. "How do you measure, measure a year: In daylights. In sunsets. In midnights. In cups of coffee." I will measure it in the morning when I make his breakfast and take it in to him. I will savor that sleepy look on his face, under the covers, up on his bunk, when he asks for two more minutes. I will measure it in the annoyance in his voice when I tell him nope, he cannot have that friend over who I know drinks and smokes. I will measure it in the stress we both experience as we journey through the college application process together and try desperately not to miss any deadlines.
I will measure it in the look of joy on his face when he wins a video game, or talks to his girlfriend on Skype, or realizes I've made his favorite pasta meal after a long, hard afternoon swim practice when he is clearly exhausted. I will measure it when I watch him bake cakes with his friends, or hold his cat, or pry the contacts from his swollen eyes after sleeping in them too many nights.
I will measure it when I come home to find he has fallen asleep on the sofa, and I will sit in my rocking chair and watch him sleep, as I have done his whole life.
The irony of the next year is not lost on me. I would slow it down to a snail's pace, while both of my children would like it just to be over. They are ready for the next big thing. They were ready yesterday.
So how will we spend our last 525,600 minutes together? I will probably make him have dinner with me more often than he would like, and I will no doubt force him to build one final snowman with me, chop down one last Christmas tree together. I will sit anxiously with him as we await acceptance letters, and I will help him pick out a suit for his senior picture and a tux for prom. I may let him get his other ear pierced. I will certainly want the privilege of driving him to register to vote next June. We have four seasons left to us, and I intend to savor and measure as many of those minutes as I can.