I was at my friend Jim's for dinner, as was my friend Denise and her daughter Anna. I have had dinner at Jim's many many times over the past several years, which is key here. I was hanging around the kitchen when Jim asked me to get "the girls" and tell them dinner was ready.
I headed off with the idea in my head of getting Jim's daughters Gretchen and Anna, who for all these years have been "the girls" when Jim speaks of the girls. I literally had to stop myself to remember that Gretchen is now a college freshman, and by the girls he of course meant both the Annas. Oh, right, I thought, Gretchen is not here, which is a silly thing to have to think of consciously because of course I knew Gretchen was not there and hadn't been for a couple of months.
What then hit me without me wanting to go there was the realization that it's not just that Gretchen was not there that night, but that something was over -- that is, the time when Gretchen and Anna were girls. This is not bad, of course, in fact I am of the opinion that Gretchen was quite ready to go off to college at the end of eighth grade (this was my suggestion to her parents when they were discussing which high school Gretchen would attend). I certainly don't want time to stand still, and "the girls" get more interesting with each passing year. But from my perspective I have remained in the same place here, and something around me has changed.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the emotion I'm describing here is. It's not sadness, as there's nothing to be sad about in the slightest. It was just this funny idea that a particular time is now gone. And that shook me up a little.