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The Briefness and Beauty of Childhood

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They are equidistant from the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. It's nowhere and somewhere and everywhere in a single syllable, a crayon scribble, a high five, a metaphorical punch to the gut, a sideways smile, a stubbed toe, an isolated frame from a camera struggling to keep up. Unmerciful shutter speed. It's a race in which no one should wish to post their fastest time, a relay where the baton is passed swiftly between thrilling, confusing, magical and frightening.

So much possibility. So much possibility? So much possibility!

We've all spent time out on the track that stretches from here to way way way over there, every single one of us, some longer than others. The longer, the luckier. Sometimes, I'll shut my eyes tight and I'll imagine, not wish, just picture, that I am still out there running, a comfortable pace for enjoying the sights as I pass them for the second time. I am running alongside young people bearing my resemblance, dodging their flailing arms and awkward legs and their tangled mess of hair blown backwards parallel to the ground. I watch their colorful sneakers, so small next to mine, pound out imprints into the pliable world with every movement forward. Always forward.

They sob and laugh and wonder and sigh and scowl in a single blink of an eye, eyes as wide as a Nebraska landscape and in them I see this place as it should be, as it might yet be once they begin to change it. They are children now, but will never be again.

They will never again be as young or as old as they are right now. Or now. Or now.

They will never again find the need to teeter on my raised rigid foot, a dad's step stool hack, to wash the world off their miniature hands in the rush of a public restroom.

They will never again dance with as much carefree abandon, dance like no one is watching -- even though we always are.

They will never again wear so many colors simultaneously, unless they join the circus, which, to be honest, seems like a distinct possibility more often than not.

They will never again be so quick to forgive, to offer a hug in the face of hurt.

They will never again be so quick to love, to offer a hug to reaffirm affection.

They will never again be so free with their money to help anyone or any thing or any place that is in desperate need of some.

They will never again mispronounce "more please" as "bop bees" or unintentionally call their sister "Dewey."

They will never again gleefully write out 27 miniature Valentine's Day cards in a single sitting.

They will never again hold your hand as tightly or as proudly or as lovingly or as voluntarily.

Their cheeks will never again be as pudgy and ripe for a squeeze from a kooky aunt or moth-ball-scented grandma.

Their pudginess will never again be as socially acceptable.

They are children now, but will never be again.

This post originally appeared on Jeff's blog, Out With The Kids.