My neighbor Midori’s late husband Belton HJ Hamilton was the first African American to graduate from Stanford and the first African American assistant Attorney General in Oregon.

I love visiting Midori. She’s the mother of two grown children whom she is so proud of. Midori is often down in California assisting her daughter’s family and helping with her grandkids. I love visiting Midori; she always offers me a chair to sit down and she makes tea for us and places a plate of cookies or pound cake in front of me to nibble on. She shares little pieces of wisdom, some insights into life or parenting or living well. I usually stop in the middle of our conversation to write something she has said down in the notes section of my phone.

At times though, I kind of feel a bit distracted when I visit Midori because I always seem to have so much on my plate with my family and work life. Often, I can only stay a short while when I visit Midori because I have to go pick up my son or my twins are coming home or I have a soccer game to go to for my son. Or my phone is ringing and it is one of my children and I told her I always answer my phone when my kids call me. There is just a lot going in our lives.

But, Midori never judges me for anything; in fact, recently — on one of those days when my kids kept calling and I had a soccer game to go to and my daughter had some questions — and I kept apologizing to Midori, she said to me, with a knowing smile:

“I almost envy you, that you still have kids at home. You have so much going on, so many neat things to do.”

Simple. Straight forward. Truth.

She was me about 30 years ago.

In the midst of the all the craziness of carpools and phone calls and homework help and late nights and changes of plans and lunch making and crazy busy, we can forget how blessed we are to be parents.

It reminded me of when my kids were little and my mother-in-law said to me, “These are the best years of your life.”

The running kids around, the early morning soccer games, the late night track meets, the parent -teacher conferences, the band concerts, the carpools, the making lunches every morning, the homework helping, the doctor visits.

We have to keep reminding ourselves of this truth. In the midst of us feeling so busy that we just wish we could stop and fast forward, but then when it stops, we are my mother-in-law or my neighbor, wondering where did all the years go by?

My son Gus is in early-bird class at school this semester, which means that four days a week he needs a ride to school at 7 a.m. The parents of two friends of my son’s friends asked us if we wanted to carpool and I said yes, so today we started that carpool with me driving.

Since I didn’t know long it would take to pick up two kids, I left really early so I could gauge the timing. Good move, because right after picking up both friends of my son’s and I was on target to get the kids to school not just on time but early, my son gets a phone call from another friend who needs a ride last minute. That friend lives in a totally different part of West Linn, and I worried that picking up this other friend would make the kids late for class.

But I of course said sure, let’s go pick him up, and we had a nice car ride and I had the chance to see my son’s friends and I even to them to the school right when the teacher was about to take attendance.

It was a lot of running around for a morning and it took a lot of flexibility and bending as we went.

Yet, the conversations in the car, the being part of their lives, the opportunity to just be part of an ordinary morning was so worth it.

It was the very thing Midori envied.

Yep, so good to be reminded, these are the best years of our lives, as my mother-in-law has said.





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