In the past six years my life has come to be marked by the seasons. Mind you, not the four seasons you all suspect and are yawning about right now as I propose them for the basis of my thoughts. No, rather, my life has varied seasons that depend entirely on the movement of my children. They parallel the mood of our regular seasons, I suppose, but for different reasons.

Soon, winter will be upon me. I can feel the dark days ahead, the shortening of daylight, the quiet of an empty house. I feel anxious anticipating its arrival and bury my head in the sand pretending it will not arrive. My winter differs from yours in that it is marked by the departure of my children. As they head north, into the hands of their father and a busy summer of non-stop activities, I settle into a mental winter. While the rest of the world around me dons shorts, soaks up the sun, splashes in the pool, and heads out-of-doors, I head inside deep into the recesses of my psyche. There, a blanket of white covers my thoughts and protects me from solitude. I read once, when I was desperately trying to win the war on worthless worry, that a good mental trick is to imagine your loved ones cloaked in a protective white halo. I use this technique a lot in their absence and an unintended irritating side effect is that white glow tends to cover more than just my children – thus, my mental winter.

The great thing about winter in my world is that it’s relatively short in real-time – 8 weeks to be exact. At which time springtime arrives in a burst of kisses, smiles, and reuniting. While the real world is deep into summer, my spring begins when my children arrive safely back in my arms and we have a brief time to enjoy together before another school year begins. We celebrate our spring together with traditional summer activities; trips to the pool, camping, walks, bike-rides, and fishing. Increasingly, I am forced to share this time with my children’s treasured friends who accompany us on our day trips or stick around for sleepovers. I do this, begrudgingly, as I know it is the trend of the future, but I can’t help but cling to the safety of the past.

The arrival of school marks our long summer together. While the days are spent in school, I can count on for the most part, that we will be together. Interrupted by only a few short visits, the kids and I have the entire school year to spend with one another and I treasure that time. While fall, winter, and spring pass in the real world, we are enjoying long days and nights in one another’s company. It is the summer of our togetherness and we don’t begin to feel the bite of fall until just about now, late in the spring of the real world when our separation lies dauntingly in front of us.

I’ve never really reflected on these seasons before, but they’ve marked the passage of time for six years now and I realize more and more how I’ve mentally settled into them. This year, of course, I’m fortunate to have an intrusion of reality into my world with the arrival of Jim. He reminds me that this year it will be different, that together we will celebrate the season of summer. It is an exciting prospect this notion of not being alone, of not going through the motions solo. Despite my recent setback, he assures me that we’ll be riding our bikes and going fly fishing, just as we’ve talked about for months. So, this year, for the first time, I may be able to feel the sunshine in the middle of my winter. It’s an exciting prospect and one that I hope will cause a permanent thaw and alter my unnatural seasons forever. For he has surprised me in more ways than one, but mostly he has taught me to dream again – and once you let that bird out of its cage it refuses to be recaptured.