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COLUMNIST: Young Girls grow old, snowmen melt

This goes back, way back, to a day when, as if to remind me that life wasn't already whizzing by at light speed, there came into the farmyard a long black limousine. It stopped and lurked right outside the front door of the house. Right there in front of the door. Big black limos with shiny blackout windows don't occupy normal space-they lurk.

I looked at it from where I stood, leaning on the shovel with which I had been planting an apple tree, a shovel which now served to lean upon, to steady me. The tinted darkness of the limo's windows was ominous in that its occupants could see out, but you could not see in.

I knew why it was there, there other than to remind me that time is not within our control. It was prom night-the limousine was here to scoop up two of The Young Girls, the limo being the 21st century's equivalent of a pumpkin drawn by a team of mice turned into horses, carrying children turning into adults, away to a dance. What made all this so emotional was that, this time, the pumpkin was carrying away two of my children.

I had a sudden memory of The Young Girls as Little Girls who, on a warm summer day, covered with mud, one still in a mud-soaked diaper, stopped playing long enough to pose for the camera. Stopped making mud castles and pies with spoons and spatulas and dishes.

Right there in the driveway where the limo lurks.

Then I remembered them a little older, with the coaster wagon tied haphazardly to Sally, the Black Lab whose body English served to remind everyone around her that she - not these usurpers - was our first child. She wouldn't pull that wagon though, no sir, which didn't seem to matter to them. Regardless of Sally's attitude, they spent blissful hours dressing her up and tying her up and whatall, while she just stood there, patiently waiting for their attention to shift elsewhere. She stood and endured.

Right there in the driveway where the limo lurks.

The next memory is of The Young Girls, older still, and it is snowing, a warm snow, wet and sticky and great for making snow sculptures. The Young Girls at that age brought to snow art a new attention to detail that was amazing. The figures that they created, with hats and gloves and arms, stood for weeks, and reminded me each day when I left for work that children gain new skills, and grow older, even though the snow people seem to stand there unchanged. I say "seem." After a few days, the snowmen began to show that time was passing quickly. It does that for snowmen, and for children. They both grow old.

Right there in the driveway where the limo lurks.

Suddenly, a door in the black limo opens and Young Men appear, all dressed up, holding their offering of flowers. They wear grown-up tuxes, with sharp pleats in their pants, and patent leather shoes that catch the late day sun, and they wear brilliant smiles..

I look, and my hands have abandoned the shovel for a camera, with which I somewhat automatically begin taking pictures of young excitement, and anticipation, and shy looks, and jerky moves, as The Young Men pose self consciously with The Young Girls. Then they are clumsily pinning corsages on, and the results are crooked, and everyone is smiling at everyone else, even though the smiles look frozen, and somewhat manufactured. Is this fun, the smiles seem to ask? They all seem a little bit confused about what it is exactly that each of them is supposed to be doing, in this ritual in front of the magic pumpkin in which they arrived moments ago.

They probably think that we, The Old Girl and I, being adults, know what they should be doing, and they likely wish they could do it. At least then, someone would be happy. We are, by our presence, the unwitting source of a great deal of their awkwardness. Getting the hell out of there will solve that dilemma, though, so they bundle their sharp pleats and shiny dresses into the pumpkin and speed out of there, all black windows and motion and leaving, taking both the proof of our existence-and our measure of time passing-away.

We stand there, and watch them go, and think about children playing in the mud, and a black dog tied to a wagon, and snow men, and our own fading mortality.

In the LaMaze method book, I don't remember any of this being covered.