As I was reflecting on the weekend which include The Social Outing, I realized that we had passed one of those milestones of last things that will likely never come again. In this case, the family vacation drive.
The location of the Social Outing was 1.5 hours from where we were staying and so - ever mindful of the "early is on time and on time is late" - we left, mostly in order to avoid traffic which never seemed to materialized. Which was fine, as it turned out to be a beautiful spring day of green and wildflowers.
The drive - winding up through greenery and fields and small towns - is one I have not made in many years. Na Clann have probably made it at least once, although I am sure that none of them recall it at this point as it has been too many years. We drove through the small villages, replete with weekend travelers at boutique stores and restaurants I can likely not afford. We stopped a upscale grocery store we used to stop at which had closed, only to find it had opened again under another name. This was something they very all much did remember, as we would always stop there for dipped cookies when we were in the area.
It was in the last town before our destination, when we were recklessly spending time while meandering through the streets as we were very early, that I suddenly realized that quite likely, this was the last time this would happen.
Nighean Gheal (the oldest) is in the process of finding out when her actual start-date is for her post-college "career-type" job, which will certainly be no later than October. There is a tiny chance she will stay in the area, but more likely she will be off to A Big City. Nighean Bhan (the middlest) will finish college this December and start working while she applies to graduate school; between work, graduate school and The Boyfriend (who, after dating for 3 years, may finally have to get a name here) her ability or "desire" to get away will be limited, even if she lives at home during that time (which seems the plan). Nighean Dhonn (the youngest) is a year away from college and has made it fairly clear that once she goes, coming back will be limited to Summer and Christmas (if that).
The plans for this Summer are already in place and their lives (and ours, to be fair) are planned out. Thus, this drive through old houses and greenery might very well be the last that we would take together in this sort of form.
It is a sobering thing when the thought hits you. For a moment one tries to drink it all in. One is almost tempted to say something but somehow that will spoil the spontaneity and mood which is present at that moment. It becomes like the wildflower that blooms for a short period: to do anything else other than just appreciate it - to pick it or press it - is in some meaningful way to mar its beauty, even if for a short moment it appears the same.
And so I allowed the moment to be, listening to the discussion of music and pricing of homes and the sorts of trivia that seem to fill the moments that are meaningful when we do not realize that they are.
I am sure that there will be other, different moments to come that will be equally as good. That is something I have had to learn by the hard experience of trying to crystalize the moments that have gone on before. But they will be different in pesonae dramatae even if most of the characters remain the same. But they will never be this moment - this fleeting, ephemeral moment at the end of one era and the start of another.
The trees shook their leaves gently as we drove by. It was likely the breeze to most people; I know otherwise.