It was late last night when my son realized what had happened to him. He had stayed up way past his regular bed time, and was closing in on what could best be described as "holiday hours." His mother and father were tired and worn out from a long day of moving children from one grade level to another, and had effectively collapsed in bed. We told him that if he stayed up much longer, he would have to turn out the lights and make sure the door was locked. This got him moving, but I had my face in my pillow with my eyes closed as he was brushing his teeth. He had managed to outlast both of his parents.
It was, after all, his promotion day. I heard him climb up into his bed, and turn on his favorite CD, still "Winnie the Pooh" after all these years. I waited for the steady rhythm of his breathing to tell me that his own big day had caught up to him. Instead, I heard him call out, "Mom?"
"Your mom's asleep. Is there something I can help you with," I called back.
"I'm just having a hard time getting to sleep," came the reply.
I know this drill by heart, and I went all the way back to the days when he was an infant in a crib, crying in the dark. I would go in and pick him up, and walk from room to room, looking out each window. "All the birds are asleep." At the next, "All the kids across the street are asleep," until we had walked around the whole house and felt the stillness. He never wanted to miss anything. I walked with my son last night and we looked out into the night to be sure that there was nothing better going on.
And that's the way he felt last night. He had finished elementary school, and he was ready for whatever came next. He didn't want to rest on his laurels, he wanted to figure out just how that next thing would feel. He was grieving for a past that was only hours behind him, and I could only tell him what he already knew: He has three months to prepare himself for the terrors and pleasures of middle school. He has three months of summer to celebrate the years he spent in grade school. I told him it was like the speeches his classmates gave, leaving was bittersweet. I started to describe the taste of bittersweet chocolate, the very satisfying flavor of chocolate chips, and enjoying the slow build of my metaphor. And then he was asleep. His brain had finally given up, and surrendered to the night.
When I got back to my own bed, it took me a while to get back to sleep myself.