Rachel's Oscar-worthy performance as Great Aunt Muriel

I am skipping the concert. I am sure it is a very fine concert, but my body seems to have figured out that I spent all day yesterday driving. If I had pushed my limits and gone, I ran the risk of becoming like that kid at Disneyland. The one who was weeping like someone was killing her puppy because, two-thirds of the way through a "perfect day" at "the Happiest Place on Earth," she realized that there wouldn't be enough time to go on ALL of the rides. There's always more going on at a conference than a mere mortal can take in, and if you waste energy distressing over what you miss, you stand a good chance of ruining the whole experience.

So I'm blogging instead, which is much less energy-intensive than acoustic rock and jazz.

Here starts my stream-of-consciousness that is only very tangentially related to today's experiences: Think back -- when you were little, and grown-ups who didn't see you very often would exclaim over how much you've grown, did that drive you nuts? Or was it only if they messed up your hair at the same time, or pinched your cheeks?

After all, as Thursday Next observes in the delightful novel Something Rotten, "It was unlikely in the extreme that he would have shrunk." Growing is just what kids do, so remarking on it like it's something surprising is, well, kind of inane.

I know that. But I have become that adult.

I started noticing that other peoples' kids were growing like weeds just about the same time I stopped growing. One day, the summer after graduating from college, I signed on to the internet using my father's ISP account. I quickly received an IM from the youth pastor at my home church, and wrote back to let him know that I wasn't who he thought I was -- I was my daughter. He replied that he wasn't who I thought he was, either -- he was his daughter. His daughter LEAH.

The Leah in my memory was a minimally verbal toddler. The Leah at the other end of my internet connection was carrying on a perfectly coherent written conversation. She could even spell "Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps." (I can't even spell "Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps" -- I made at least two typos when I tried just now to google that link.)

So you'd think I'd realize by now that kids grow. That's just what they do. But no, it keeps catching me off guard.

So: today's performance. Walking in to dinner at the conference this evening, with a friend who I see once a year, or less, and hardly ever with his family, another friend asked him how old his kids are now. Because we all know that kids grow, but it's hard to keep track of other people's kids when you don't see them much.

He answered, "One is almost five..."

That sounded about right to me. I vaguely thought that he might be a little older by now; like maybe seven.

"... and the other is nine."

CLUNK.

That's the sound of the penny dropping. Or maybe it was my jaw.

Of course. The older son would be nine now. He was almost five when I left, and contrary to the laws of my me-centered universe, the state of Connecticut and all its children has not gone into suspended animation for the intervening four years.

And that would mean that the almost-five-year-old is the BABY.

The math here is not at all difficult. Not quite one plus almost four equals almost five. But I still couldn't believe it.

Fortunately, neither child was around, so I couldn't embarrass them with inane cooing. My Great Aunt Muriel routine was entirely in my head.

Out of respect for the sensibilities of children everywhere, I will try to restrain my impulse to make inane exclamations of obvious facts around your children. (I will not always succeed.) And I promise never to pinch anybody's cheeks. But in my mind, I'll still be thinking: WOW! I can't believe how FAST s/he's grown!

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