I watched the sun as it crawled toward the horizon through a line of palm trees just off in the distance. Despite it being early October, the temperature was still in the mid-eighties, meaning a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops were the only way to go. A cool breeze blew through my toes as I finished off my Philly cheesesteak and glanced at my wife and kids around the table.
No, we were not on vacation. We were not at the beach. In fact, we were actually sitting outside at a restaurant only a few miles from our house. This is Arizona’s “Fall,” and after four months of 110-degree weather, it reminds us every year the real reason we live here.
Gazing at the orange sky silhouetted by palms, I told my wife, “I know you grew up here, but every time I see a sight like this, it still feels like I’m on vacation.” (I was raised in Connecticut, where it was not uncommon to expect snow on Halloween.)
“Yep,” she replied. “This is like the best time of year. And it goes by so fast.” She’s right. As soon as the weather cools off, it always feels like a dead sprint through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
But this evening, with autumn still new and shiny, time seemed to stand still.
“Are we still getting ice cream?” asked my son, who had just finished his chicken nuggets.
“Well, yeah, Buddy,” my wife replied. “We are, but we’re still waiting for Sister to finish her dinner.”
My son eyed his sister, who was leisurely nibbling on her fries, with plenty still piled on her plate. He grimaced. “Is this a dessert place, too?”
“No, Buddy. They only have chicken nuggets and French fries and Mommy and Daddy’s cheesesteaks.” (And yes, in case you’re wondering, cheesesteaks followed by ice cream were, in fact, my pregnant wife’s idea. Boo-yah.)
Looking up from her fries, my daughter chimed in. “I saw cookies inside.”
Her brother’s eyes lit up. “Can we have cookies?”
“Well, no,” Mommy replied. “I thought we were going to get ice cream in a few minutes.”
He just could not wrap his head around this. Squinting skeptically at his mother, he replied:
“What’s the problem with cookies?”
At first, I just laughed–and I’m sure when he said this he meant it literally–but the more I thought about it, the more I saw a deeper meaning.
How often do I get caught up in things on the horizon–what’s coming next? What do I need to be chasing? Should I be spending more time writing my thesis so I can finally graduate? How much time do I need to take off when the baby’s born? Did I get any new emails in the last two minutes? When the hell am I going to make time to write for pleasure? And where in the world IS Carmen Sandiego?
I know I do this. But I also know that in the meantime, while my mind is on Planet Future, I miss things. I could be playing with my kids more and enjoying their uniquely hilarious toddlerisms while they’re still this age. I could be feeling my unborn child kicking. I could keep up with my friends and family more instead of disappearing into my productivity cave. I could be taking my wife and kids out for Philly cheesesteaks and enjoying the sunset in perfect weather.
So honestly, my son had a point. Sure, I could spend my days obsessing over the upcoming ice cream, but really, what IS the problem with cookies? They’re right over there, and they’re pretty freaking delicious.
And so I did what anyone would do in my situation.
I told my son, “There’s nothing wrong with cookies, Buddy, but think about it. Would you rather have cookies or ice cream?”
He smiled. “Ice cream.”
What? Did you really think we were going to skip ice cream? Ice cream is infinitely more awesome.
Besides, it was Mommy’s idea. And while she’s growing a human, she gets to eat whatever she wants.
You may also enjoy:
If not, how about a cookie?