The turquoise backpack with flowers and a pink owl is jammed full with long-sleeved shirts, jammies, socks, underwear, a unicorn stuffie, and one slightly-used sketchpad. She’s packed and ready to go.
Yes, it does appear she forgot to put in jeans and long pants, but who am I to criticize a 5-year-old?
And, yes, the all-family trip to Michigan is not until fall, roughly another 12 weeks away. More precisely, 89 days or 2,136 hours. But who’s counting?
She’s waiting and thinking and daydreaming. She’s picturing herself in the hot tub, running up and down the steep slope from the rental to the lake and paddling one of the tomato-red kayaks all by herself. As if.
She’s wondering when summer will end, fall will begin and everyone will pile into cars and head north for a four-day weekend with all the cousins and aunts and uncles.
And lasagna. Don’t forget there will be lasagna. It’s tradition.
The child is not simply counting down the days; she’s practicing the lost art of anticipation. Anticipating has all but disappeared in a world of instant gratification.
See. Want. Buy.
Scroll. Swipe. Click.
These days the most practice any of us have anticipating is tracking an online order. Yes, it has shipped! Yes, it is out for delivery! Yes, it will be here by 10 p.m.! The joy of hearing a thud by the front door has become our new Christmas morning.
It is not easy to anticipate much of anything when everything is at our fingertips. Literally.
I’ve read that looking forward to something causes our brains to release hormones along the brain’s reward system. It’s like chocolate, but without the fat and the calories.
Of course, there’s the other kind of anticipation as well, the anticipation of dread. Dwelling there can cause you to experience a dreaded event twice, once before it happens as you stew about it and then again when it does happens.
Where’s the shut-off valve?
When a couple of our grown kids and their families lived a half-day or a two-day drive away, knowing the goodbyes would be hard, we often had a date on the calendar for when we’d next see one another. The seeds of anticipation helped ease the goodbye.
Anticipation is a form of delayed gratification. It is the waiting, holding in place, watching both the clock and the calendar, reveling in what is to come, the satisfaction of mapping out a trip, or outing, weeks in advance.
Even after the date arrives and the event has happened, there’s the anticipation of the road home, the vehicle turning into the driveway.
No doubt that little one also remembers the bonfire and the s’mores and is looking forward to doing those things again. Why have I not savored those same memories with the same intensity? Why don’t I have my jammies and toothbrush already packed?
I need to go find a suitcase.
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at [email protected].