"Hmm?" I murmur, while trying and failing to pluck a stray hair between my thumb and forefinger.
"You know what I love about summer?" he asks, leaning forward in his eagerness. "That the days go so slowly. There's so much time," he says, and sighs that sigh of his, the one that escapes when he's eating chocolate, or ice cream.
"Yes, I remember that feeling," I tell him, and I do. Summer days so long they sidled up to painful, boredom as infuriating as it was exhilarating. "Celebrate it - it doesn't last. The older you get, the faster time seems to move. It's Christmas. I blink. And it's Christmas again."
"Why is that?" he presses. He's not one to let things rest.
"Well...," I think. "Maybe it's because as we get older, we have a stronger sense of our own mortality. We're that much closer to the end of our lives. That, or maybe it's because adults always have so much to do. Empty hours, for us, are rare."
It's true, but there's more. I don't know how to reconcile how busy I am with the relentless sameness of the jobs I do. I've parented for quite a few years now, and sometimes I fear that if I have to figure out how one more dinner will find the table, I will scream and scream and scream some more.
But we march on, out of necessity and habit.
I find that I am unable to read fine print. I buy reading glasses with stronger and stronger magnifications. I wonder why one turns forty and on a dime loses close vision. I know no one over forty who's exempt from this particular malady. Maybe the universe is telling the middle-aged something important:
Stop looking close. Start looking far.
We are nearing home, my son and I. He has lapsed into a contented, dreamy silence. What is he thinking about? The books yet read, games yet played, friends yet made, lakes yet swum, cotton candy yet eaten, fireflies yet caught?
I am despairing over our next meal. Do the children have to eat so much, and so often?
The little girl at the end of the street is standing in her front yard. Her arms are stretched high, her head tilted up toward June's sun. She is yelling. I open the window to listen.
"I do believe in dragons!" I hear. Her tone is fierce, brooking no dissent. She is preaching a sermon to the sky.
My son and I burst into laughter. The little girl has enchanted us both. "That's it!" I cry. "Time goes on forever as long as you believe in dragons."
My boy cocks his head, nods nearly imperceptibly. "That's actually true," he muses. "Serious-true, not just silly-true." We look at each other, silenced by the moment. Suddenly I want to cry, not sad tears but the tears that come from being moved so thoroughly that you are unable to keep yourself contained.
"The problem is," he finishes, "Once you've stopped believing in dragons, it's really hard to go back to believing in them." "Yes," I affirm, and our eyes meet again, acknowledging truths small and large.
My son tumbles out of the car in search of his basketball, and I lope into the house and set about making dinner, which just now does not feel like a chore. I am light. I am outside myself, imagining how it would feel to believe in dragons. I am looking far.