Fledglings

Finch familyLast weekend we loaded up the U-Haul and moved our daughter into her first San Francisco apartment.  Ally had just started a new job—the kind with benefits, including dental. That same day, our other daughter, Emma, moved from home into an artist’s residency a thousand miles away.

Developments were also under way in another family—this one nesting under the eaves on a drainpipe above our back deck. A pair of house finches who raised a brood there last year had returned.

The first time round, I was a nervous wreck about the birds. Would the neighbor’s cat get them? Would the babies fall out of their nest? Crash while learning to fly? Every morning I peeked out the window like a new parent who ventures into the nursery dreading crib death. It was like a time-lapsed sequence of all my anxieties about raising our own children.

But everything turned out fine, as it usually does. So this time round I’ve been calmer, not only with the finches’ launch, but with our daughters’. There’s a pang still, but it’s not nearly as acute as before, when each new step Emma and Ally made away from us left me worried about their well-being and wondering who I would be in their absence. Now I have come back to myself, come back to the marriage pushed to the back burner while my husband and I grew our girls into young women. Just as our daughters are taking flight into their new lives, we are, too.

So it is with our bird family. The parent finches go from patient egg-sitting to cramming food down gaping mouths. Scruffy teens with tufts of down atop their heads soon take over the living space, crowding each other on the edge of the nest.  Dislodged twigs and dried bits of guano litter the deck below. In a few days, they are gone, leaving behind their mess.

Just like Ally and Emma. I sweep the deck, then tackle the debris left behind in their rooms–stray socks, scraps of paper, dirty sheets and towels. As much as we miss our daughters, my husband and I love the return to order, love having our house (and deck) back.

Besides, we look forward to return visits, messiness and all.

 

 

 

W is for Whatever

whateverI had been feathering the empty nest with self-pity and sadness since our daughter Emma left for college. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover at the breakfast table a baby bird not yet launched—Ally, our younger daughter.

Such is the lot of the second child. Even in utero Ally suffered benign neglect as I consumed the occasional Diet Coke or glass of wine.

“Whatever,” I’d think.

After an exhausting labor, I couldn’t have cared less when Ally was whisked away to the nursery and given a bottle. This from the same woman who wrote a four-page letter of complaint to Kaiser when a nurse suggested a little sugar water for my firstborn! The second time around, I was too busy contemplating not so much the miracle of birth as the debacle of my body, which felt like it was filled with concrete.

“Whatever,” I rationalized as they carted away my squalling baby. “What’s the harm in a rubber nipple now and then?”

This was unthinkable when Emma was born. We were warned not to introduce a bottle within the first several weeks lest the baby get confused and reject the breast. Of course, Emma screamed the house down the first several times we eventually tried a bottle. Initially tyrannized by the cult of breastfeeding, we were next tyrannized by an infant who was furious rather than confused about the difference between rubber and flesh.

As for the whatever child, doomed by a mother who preferred sleeping over bonding–she sucked happily at both breast and bottle from the get-go. And she did it wherever, whenever, since she was used to being hauled around to suit everyone else’s schedule.

Benign neglect had further salutary effects. Whenever Emma pitched a fit, I oozed empathy, thus encouraging marathon tantrums. With Ally, I just stepped around her sob-wracked, prostrate body. Whatever. I went on with my business, and pretty soon she went back to hers.

I wonder who suffers more: the subsequent children who are so often ignored, or the firstborn who lives so cozily in an enchanted web of enmeshment? Ally may not be coddled, but she avoids the sticky entanglements of my too-rapt focus. She’s an independent go-getter. Still, she complains that she can’t get enough of my attention.

I took note. While mooning after Emma, who needed to fly free, I had overlooked the one who still relished my company.

So this weekend Ally and I spent a whole day together, just the two of us. I cheered her on at her track meet, then we gabbed over lunch at the Beach Chalet. We chased down ducks with a pedal boat at Stow Lake, then prowled her favorite vintage clothing haunts.

I know it won’t be long before she’s rolling her eyes and saying “whatever” under her breath, ignoring me as I once ignored her. But until then, I’m going to savor every moment.

*

How’s it been for you as a parent of more than one child on this score? How about as a sibling–either firstborn or subsequent? 

 

S is for Send-off

 

I prowl the bulk food aisle at the grocery store, scooping my daughter’s favorite dried organic mango and granola into plastic bags. Ally’s about to leave for college, and I’m in charge of provisions. Scanning the shelves for the chai tea she loves, I find myself thinking of the King Tut show that came through town a few years ago.

At the exhibit, case after case contained wondrous artifacts that kept the Boy King company on his journey to the afterlife: a whimsical child’s chair; a model boat fashioned from papyrus; clay vessels for his favorite food and wine; an inlaid board game to while away the eternal hours.

I imagined Tut’s grieving courtiers and family members busying themselves by accumulating the little treasures of everyday life. What did he prefer to eat?  Remember how he crowed triumphantly every time he won this game! Don’t forget his boat, complete with oarsmen to help him cross over. This little clay animal will remind him of the pets and people who still love him when he is lonely in his journey to the afterlife.

My daughter, still very much alive, is simply starting college. But I feel a kinship with the ancient Egyptians as I place the mango and chai into the box next to the toothpaste and family photos I have been stockpiling for Ally’s send-off.  After all, she’ll need to be prepared for the new life that awaits her far from home.  Who knows if they have proper provisions in the world beyond known as college?

I add Scrabble and a deck of cards to the cache of treasures. When Ally’s homesick, they’ll help her conjure up nights of laughter with those who love and miss her. For good measure, I tuck in her old stuffed dog, whose soft pink plush Ally long ago caressed into a colorless, misshapen bundle. The mundane accoutrements of home will provide succor for the uncharted passage ahead.

We moderns marvel at the golden funeral masks and ornately painted sarcophagi unearthed from the royal tombs. Yet it is the relics of domesticity used in the ritual of farewell that captivate us. Several millennia span the time between King Tut and today. But the impulse is timeless to send along a bit of home, a bit of ourselves, in the hard task of saying goodbye.

*

What tokens of home help you or a loved one when far away?

 

P is for Pinnacles

Pinnacles_National_Park_-_Flickr_-_Joe_Parks

It’s a steep haul up the High Peaks Trail, especially when you’re seven months pregnant with your first child. But back then, giddy with promise, my husband Jonathan and I floated past the massive boulders of Pinnacles National Park. Cresting the summit, baby bulk and all, I relished the double take of the buff, shirtless teenagers loitering atop the rocks. They paused mid-swagger to glance in horror at my swollen belly as I conquered the mountain in my smocked maternity top.

Our family has returned to the Pinnacles again and again, drawn by the massive cliffs, soaring spires, and lush spring wildflowers. Leaving behind the fragmented kaleidoscope of daily life, we are calmed by the reliable sameness of the timeless, indifferent peaks.

Yet even in this constant landscape, change is under way. The fantastic rock formations are the remains of an ancient volcano ravaged by erosion, creeping steadily up the Salinas Valley along the San Andreas Fault. I am grateful that only subtle clues dispel the illusion of permanence. A precariously balanced boulder has fallen from its perch. Spatters of chartreuse and rust lichen toil as alchemists, turning rock to soil. Their magic allows monkey flowers the color of apricots to bloom from dirt pockets hidden in solid stone.

Time has worked its alchemist’s magic on us as well. Two years after our initial trip, we camp at the Pinnacles, weighed down by the accoutrements of toddlerhood — diapers, goldfish crackers, juice boxes, a travel crib. Emma, whose in utero view had been obscured, now enjoys the scenery from the baby backpack that digs into our shoulders as we trudge along the dusty trail.

When we return again, the campground has been paved over for more parking. This time, we have two young daughters in tow, barely out of diapers. But Emma and Ally are definitely into sit-down strikes at the prospect of hiking more than a few hundred yards. Not wishing to fight an uphill battle, we content ourselves with the flat path at the base of the mountains so the girls can splash in the creek. Jonathan, impatient with the meandering pace of childhood, sprints to the summit while the girls and I delight in wild bouquets and rocky forts along the valley floor.

The next time the Pinnacles beckon, Emma and Ally gamely traverse the High Peaks Trail. They are enchanted by poppies sprouting out of boulders, the rock that looks like a camel. The girls nibble on miner’s lettuce and strategic bribes of chocolate, scampering around the summit while their tired parents lag behind. Rocks and children tame each other: whininess turns to exultation, forbidding stone becomes an infinite playground.

Although the incline invites vertigo, the girls clamber up and down, up and down the footholds chiseled into the rock, swinging from the metal banister as if nature and the Park Service had fashioned monkey bars just for them. Jonathan and I must squeeze through the narrow cliff passage in an awkward crouch. But it is just the right size for Emma and Ally, who march through boldly upright, giggling as their crooked parents bump their heads against the rocky overhang.

We are not the only ones who find the Pinnacles a good place for families. Condors, recently reintroduced to the park, build nests in the sheltered crevices. While they teach their young how to catch thermals, we show ours how to catch the shine of buttercups on their chins in the warm sunlight.

Now our daughters have taken flight too, soaring and wavering in their own grown-up landscapes. Alone again, Jonathan and I make our pilgrimage to drink in the riotous wildflowers and steadfast rocks whenever time allows. As always, we stop in Soledad at Pacheco’s Mexican Grocery for tortas — soft white rolls dripping with spicy carnitas.

Soledad, gateway to the Pinnacles, has sprung up even faster than Emma and Ally. Twenty-seven years ago, it consisted of Pacheco’s, a prison, a few dusty streets of dilapidated houses, and a fleabag hotel with a cracked, empty swimming pool. Now the highway billboard reads: “It’s happening in Soledad.”  Vineyards dot the hillsides, and a tony resort lies adjacent to the Pinnacles. Kids from tidy homes with manicured yards swarm the soccer field at the spanking new school. A vast shopping center dwarfs the original Main Street, but we still head to our old Mexican grocery. Pacheco’s, whose tortas remain a juicy, scrumptious bargain, is as timeless as the Pinnacles.

Fueled by the succulent tortas and memories, Jonathan and I start up the High Peaks Trail once more. Although stiffer and a little creaky, we ascend quickly past the boulders and apricot blooms of monkey flower.

Again and again, we come back to ourselves in the shelter of the enduring cliffs.

*

What is your favorite family place that you return to over and over?

N is for New Nest, Spiffed up with Cleanser (and Love)

cleaning suppliesI am down on my hands and knees in my pajamas, scrubbing my daughter Emma’s bathroom floor. The one-inch hexagonal tiles were clearly not installed with college kids in mind, to say nothing of the Deco light fixtures and grooved wainscoting. Every nook and cranny is caked with grime.

Emma is asleep upstairs in the bed abandoned by the previous tenant. She’s exhausted from yesterday’s 12-hour drive and the thought of setting up her first home outside the dorms. But I’ve been up since daybreak.

It’s been years since I’ve cleaned my own bathroom. I replenish the empty bottles of Soft Scrub and Windex that Maria leaves on the counter. That’s the extent of my exertion. How do I instruct my daughter in the lost domestic arts?

“Make enough money so you can hire a housecleaner” is my usual advice. But Emma at 20 is years away from a good paycheck.  What was I thinking when I let Maria scrub the toilet?

Emma may have grown up with Maria, but I grew up without hired help, under the tutelage of a mother who swore by Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Housekeep. When I was just a few years older than Emma, I shared an apartment with my friend Jane, whose mother’s domestic Bible was more Lutheran than Peg Bracken. Their credo was “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Jane once surveyed the bathroom I had just scoured and asked in a despairing tone, “Didn’t your mother ever teach you about cleanser?”

My mother did teach me about cleanser, but she imparted a different lesson. She associated housework with the humiliation her own mother endured scrubbing floors for a sadistic boss during the Depression. My grandmother humbled herself for a pittance so her daughter would not starve. Maria, albeit with a kinder employer and higher wages, does the same. I am lucky to escape their desperate need. But here I am, another mother engaged in the sacrament of love through sacrifice, down on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor for my daughter.

By now my back is aching, so I pause to stretch. Chrome faucets, mirror, and light fixtures gleam. Stripped of encrusted layers of filth, the wainscoting and baseboards are blindingly white. I survey my efforts with pride, grateful that years of paid help have not stripped away my ability to clean, limited though it may be. For the grueling labor that is basic to love cannot be hired out.

Emma is awake at last. She comes downstairs, yawning and stretching as she stumbles into the bathroom. Her delight is a balm for my sore knees and stiff back.
After breakfast, we search out provisions in Emma’s new neighborhood, emerging from the hardware store with a Swiffer Sweeper Starter Kit and several other weapons in the war against grime.

Back at the house, Emma and I tackle the kitchen together. We work side by side, scrubbing the Formica counters, polishing the cabinet fronts. I remember a moment years ago, when baby Emma kept me company in the kitchen, her luscious neck folds spilling out of the collar of her cotton jammies. As I sat on the floor polishing with the cleaning rag, I glanced to my side. There she was right next to me, vigorously wiping circles on the cabinets with her blankie. Baby Emma grinned with delight as we swooped, cackling, into one another’s arms.

Now Emma spritzes Windex on congealed spills atop a glass table in the living room. We ooh and ahh over the house’s multiple charms—the elegant bathroom, soft pine flooring, built-in window seats. Emma and I scheme about getting rid of all her housemates’ junk. I think, If only we could get rid of them, I could move in here with you, and we could really fix it up nicely! But I keep this sentiment to myself.

The next morning I must head for home. Emma is content to stay behind, running her Swiffer under the sofas and across the honey-colored floors.

I go into the gleaming bathroom one last time. Pausing in my morning ablutions to admire my handiwork, I see that I have missed some spots. The window is streaked, and stray cobwebs dangle from the upper molding like Spanish moss. But overall, the bathroom cleans up nicely. It has good bones.

I’ve missed a few spots with my daughter as well: how to budget, how to scrub a toilet, the uses of cleanser.  But Emma, too, cleans up nicely. She has good bones.

My aching bones remind me again of my gratitude for Maria. I’d still advise Emma to earn enough money to hire a housecleaner. But I would impart some additional wisdom as well: Learn how to clean, so that someday, if you are lucky enough to be moving your daughter into her first house, you can know the sheer joy of scrubbing her bathroom floor on hands and knees while she sleeps.

*

What was it like moving into your first home away from home? If you have children, what’s it been like helping them set up in their newly fledged adult lives?

M is for Movie Group

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYears ago, when our daughters were in kindergarten and third grade, my husband and I started a book group with other families we knew through our kids’ school. Five couples and 11 kids met for a potluck dinner every few weeks. The third-graders discussed The Babysitters Club (this was before Harry Potter was invented); the younger children pitched fits. Total chaos. Plus, I noticed over time that a mixed-gender group tends to choose a lot of books about war and history.

Still, we had a lot of fun for many years, and even read a few good books along the way.

Once our Babysitters Book Club kids had all gone off to college, my husband and I decided it was time to start a new group. By this time we had wised up, and knew our limits. No kids, of course—we only invited empty-nesters (different friends from our old crew, since I still harbored resentment about some of those literary choices). No full-scale dinner parties—just dessert.

And, best of all, no books–just movies! An assigned book you don’t like is a torturous investment. An assigned movie you don’t like, on the other hand, is a serendipitous nap!

Our movie group kicked off in 2008 with Elegy. I don’t remember a thing about the film, except we all agreed that anything with Penelope Cruz in it is worth seeing for the visuals alone. (I personally have a crush on Jesse Eisenberg, making me the lone member who didn’t think his Mark Zuckerberg was an asshole in The Social Network.)

Elegy was the one and only movie we all saw together, sitting in our stretched-out row in the theater. After that, people have seen the movies on their own, according to what works best for their schedule, including whether they can only stay awake if it’s a matinee (not naming any names here!).

The challenge is picking a movie that will still be around close to the time of our next group: If we see it too early, we won’t remember it. After all, we’re all old enough to be empty-nesters—which means we don’t recall anything that’s happened more than a few days ago. (If we see a movie in our independent art theater, my husband and I won’t remember it at all, because we will have slept through it—even the matinee.)

I adore our movie group, which rotates among our houses every few weeks. The hosts provide dessert and pick the movie, usually with consensus reached via email beforehand. But if I wanted to pick some obscure Jesse Eisenberg film, it would be my prerogative to cram it down everyone’s throat. Every host but me always makes food to match the film’s theme—a nice touch that I always forget. Except when we saw The Help, but I just couldn’t bring myself to serve chocolate pie.

Other than Boyhood, which we all loved, and Unmistaken Child, which we all hated, we never agree. Part of the fun is predicting who will have what opinion.

One thing’s clear, though: the right people are married to one another–movie tastes are similar between the members of each couple. This vindicates my husband and me, because years ago, we developed a theory that couples’ compatibility could be predicted based on the 10 favorite and 10 least favorite movies of each (those dogs in the middle, i.e., the bad films my husband likes, don’t count so as not to skew the results). My husband and I had to put our theory aside to save our own marriage after a dispute about a very fine film, The Piano. But now our data set of four couples proves its validity once more.

So, if there are any algorithm geniuses from Netflix and Match.com out there who want to cut us a percentage of the killing they will make from our theory, give us a call.

Or better yet, catch us at the movies!

 *

Are you in a movie group? What’s your favorite movie? Would your relationship withstand the test of our Movie Compatibility Theory? If not, would you ditch the theory, the movie, or the relationship?

K is for Kitchen Table

tableMy youngest daughter, Ally, who had our old kitchen table at college, wanted to sell it before studying abroad for a year. I, however, insisted on storing the table during her absence, certain she would need it upon her return.

But it was really my need: for Ally to still want to keep a part of home, and for her to remain with us, “in storage,” during the temporary absence that foreshadowed the permanent separation of growing up. Although the table would be cumbersome to move and store, I wasn’t ready to let go.

After all, it was so much more than a table. I remembered how my future husband set it with yellow roses and homemade spaghetti soon after we met, and the subsequent family dinners once we had kids. I recalled the homework, the crafts, the cookie decorating, how the table contained the overflow of books, mail, and all the stuff of family life throughout the years. I had held on to the table to forestall feeling the loss of these cherished times, the ache of the empty nest.

Transitional objects are not just the loved-to-bits blankies and stuffed animals of childhood; they help us cope throughout life. We hang on to them until we do the work of integrating and grieving what they signify, and can relinquish them once they become just the thing itelf.

So after remembering, and mourning, I called Ally and said, “Sell the table.” It had become just a piece of furniture to me, and a ratty one at that. I could bear its loss, and even look forward to what might open up in letting go.

In the end Ally decided to keep the table. Perhaps she still needed a token of home while growing up. Or just a place to eat dinner and throw her books.

*

What have you hung on to, and what has helped you relinquish it?

B is for Boomerang

Boomerang

“Bite your tongue.”

That’s advice I’ve been taking to heart ever since our 26-year-old daughter Emma moved back home right before Christmas. Emma spent two years as a starving artist in Brooklyn after college and a temporary job in Russia—she loved living in New York City, except for the starving part. And the weather. So now our little fledgling has come home to roost.

Just as Brooklyn is the thing for young adults to do, so is boomeranging back.

For someone who spent as much time as I did mournfully anticipating the empty nest, then moping around once I actually had one, you’d think I’d rejoice at Emma’s return.

But it’s surprising how quickly you can fall in love with a clean house. Not to mention the husband you’ve neglected over the past couple of decades.

Just as Emma had grown fond of her independence, so had we. Now we’re all like not-quite-roommates who are trying hard not to engage in nagging and eye-rolling. (Guess which habit matches which generation!)

There’s nothing really wrong, exactly. Emma is sweet, and definitely more mature than when we packed her off for Adventures in Young Adulthood. She tells us that she was the one in her Brooklyn household who always turned off the lights and kept the place clean (I’d really hate to meet those other housemates).

But it’s true that she now leaves smaller debris trails than she used to. Emma also cooks dinner for us once a week, chips in for gas and groceries, has found work, and takes her art seriously. She seems to be following some inner plan, although what it is and on what time line the plan will unfold is anyone’s guess.

Still, having Emma back is a tough transition—for all of us. She misses coming and going as she pleases without parents wondering if she’s lying dead in a ditch somewhere. I miss turning off the radar on that particular nightmare. On a more mundane note, I also miss being able to get into the car knowing that NPR will come on instead of some horrible noise from a different preset. I miss dishes done on my timetable. I miss towels that hang neatly from the towel rack. I miss not feeling like a control freak who is constantly resisting the urge to nag. I miss my unbitten tongue.

In the meantime, I keep reminding myself how lucky we are to have a child we love and who loves us, and who feels secure in the knowledge that she has a home to come back to.

Two children, actually: Emma may soon have company. Her younger sister, Ally, has been living in Barcelona, but she, too, plans to move back at the end of the summer while she figures out what comes next.

I used to say (and even mean it!) whenever the girls visited for holidays, “There’s nothing I like more than having everyone here under the same roof again!”

Be careful what you wish for.

 *

 Anyone boomeranged back into your empty nest? How have you weathered the transition?

Empty Nest Projects

Picture of nestFrances McDormand, speaking recently at City Arts and Lectures about Olive Kitteredge, referred to the HBO miniseries she stars in and produced as her empty nest project. Already mourning her son’s not-quite-imminent departure when he was 14, McDormand cast about for something to take his place. She bought the rights to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, shaped it with screenwriter Jane Anderson and director Lisa Cholodenko­­­, and insisted that Richard Jenkins be cast as Olive’s “tyrannically cheerful” husband. When McDormand’s son left for college, she left for Gloucester for three months of filming.

I, too, dreaded my kids’ departure long before they left home. My empty nest project was writing. I had dabbled in words before, but aside from churning out a clever holiday letter every year, my oeuvre was pretty non-existent. Writing was the one thing I looked forward to, not just to fill the void, but as something just for me after years of tending to others–my consolation prize for the planned obsolescence of motherhood.

It was also good therapy, as writing usually is. I poured my anxiety and grief onto the page. “Soon we’ll be leaving the emerald hills and spring-soft skies of the Bay Area to visit faraway New England colleges, icy sirens that entice my baby away from home,” I began. This turned into my first Perspectives piece. Like most things that well up from the heart, the words came spontaneously, easily. They struck a chord for many listeners, though one felt compelled to write that my daughter was lucky to escape my neurotic clutches!

Olive Kitteredge was accused of much worse. But where would be without our neurotic clutches? They are the wellspring of creativity. Equanimity does not hold one’s interest for long. Nor does it provide good copy. The bulk of my personal essays are about the empty nest—anxiously awaiting it, grieving it, then enjoying it. I knew I was through the mourning process when I began to tire of writing about it.

On to new things. Now that Emma has moved back home after being gone for so long, perhaps my next endeavor will be the Boomerang Project. And looking forward to seeing what comes next for Frances McDormand.

*

How have you transformed your struggles with creativity?

From Boyhood to Adulthood, Time Passes

Hourglass

“We happen upon ourselves when nothing much happens to us, and we are transformed in the process.”  (Anthony Lane’s review of Boyhood in The New Yorker, July 21, 2014)

In Richard Linklater’s wonderful film, Boyhood, we see a boy and his family grow up throughout 12 years of real rather than simulated aging. Time itself is one of the lead actors. Toward the end of the film, the boy, Mason, talks with a young woman he meets on his first day of college. “Seize the moment,” they conclude about the adage, has it backwards. Actually, “the moment seizes you.”

Every one of Boyhood’s ­­164 minutes seized me through its assemblage of ordinary moments that constitute life. At my urging, my 23- and 26-year-old daughters went to see the film. They liked it, but both said it was more for middle-aged people than young ones. This strikes me as true, but why?

Perhaps a fundamental difference between how my daughters and I perceived the film stems from the fundamental difference between how children and adults perceive time. For kids, time passes slowly, excruciatingly or deliciously so. Adults, on the other hand, want to stop if not reverse the clock. They have a consciousness of aging that children lack. Linklater simultaneously captures a child’s moment-by-moment experience and the palpable nostalgic ache of adulthood. Longing for what is lost to time itself adds an extra dimension for the viewer old enough to have moved midway through time’s trajectory.

During one of Boyhood’s earliest scenes, Mason’s mother hands him a can of paint and asks him to cover up stray marks in preparation for moving. Mason whites out the lines on the door jamb marking his and his sister’s heights—measurements that are a yearly ritual for any family. We don’t know how six-year-old Mason experiences the moment. Perhaps he is eager to complete a task for his beleaguered mother, perhaps he’s annoyed that his sister chats on the phone while he works, perhaps he’s sad about the friends he’s about to leave behind. But surely the child feels the disruption of the present moment, not retrospective longing as his paintbrush obliterates the record of growth spurts.

Such nostalgia is the purview of adult viewers, if not Mason’s mother, who is mostly too harried and pragmatic to feel its pull until she is on the brink of the empty nest. That’s when time’s passage wallops her. As she despairingly imagines it, everything’s over in the blink of an eye,

For much of the time Linklater was writing and filming, “Always Now” was his working title. But the film might also be called “Looking Backward.” Again, it’s the difference in perspective between young and old, and between the young and old viewer. One unfolds to new possibilities while the other feels the sharp poignancy of what is already gone.

Maybe that’s why when young people get married, “Sunrise, Sunset” makes it onto the band’s playlist not for the newlyweds, but for their parents. And why Boyhood makes it onto my, but not my daughters’, all-time-favorites list.

*

How has your perspective on time changed with age? And if you’ve seen Boyhood, what did you think of it? If you have kids who saw it, what did they think?