I took the boys out for ice cream today. We sat together at a picnic table, DJ told me about saber-toothed tigers, Kevin bragged about claiming the only shady spot there. I clutched their mother's car key tight and wished the moment could last forever.
We wandered around the duck pond, counting how many newborn chicks there were, finding families swimming in a line. I thought about how lucky I was to be a part of theirs. I also thought about how lucky ducks are. They never have to go to college and say goodbye and worry about everything being different.
We trekked back to the car, slowly, because even at their young ages, they knew that things were about to be different, too. We drove slowly through the village and soon pulled into their driveway; their mom (who is, for all intents and purposes, my "second mom") was there waiting for us. The boys hugged me goodbye and I held them close and told them how important they were to me. (Not so sure how I held it together.) She hugged me too, for longer than she ever had before and we looked back on the first time I babysat. Graduation day of freshman year. It was just supposed to be a stupid babysitting job. Man, things changed.
She made me promise to keep in touch. I still managed to keep my wits about me and agreed before pressing the car key into her hand and realizing that things wouldn't ever be the same. We didn't say "goodbye" as I walked down the driveway and two doors down to my house, because I know how much she hates goodbyes. She called out "see you later" and I nodded and smiled and tried to blink away the tears.
I was sitting in my yard when they drove up the street, about to begin their summer an hour or so from here. I know they'll be back for a few hours every now and then to mow the lawn and for appointments and such, but waving goodbye hurts so much more when you love someone with that kind of capacity.
I'm already counting down till winter break when I'll come home and babysit again. The ducks will have flown south with their families by then, and I'll be coming home to mine. My families. Both of them.