I've been getting that 'look' from elderly ladies lately.
I'll be in the supermarket, probably with both kids. They are full of beans (or free countdown fruit for kids, more accurately) and I just want to whizz through and get the shop done. I'm in some sort of harried rush, multitasking with the list, the kids and the bags.
I walk past an elderly lady in the aisle and she will look at us. And I can see her eyes soften and her face go into a half smile. Sometimes she will say nothing, and sometimes she will make a passing comment about 'oh they are lovely' or 'oh it goes so fast.'
It is never the middle aged women. I have thought about this and think it's because the early years of chaos are still too close in memory. Or perhaps they have young grandkids of their own, so don't need to get gooey over mine.
But the elderly ladies, oh they are far enough away from this stage to miss it, to feel wistful, to take time to engage with us.
In that moment I feel what I am calling pre-emptive nostalgia. I can be sentimental at the best of times, but sometimes I am sentimental in the moment that is happening right now, because I know I will miss it when it's gone.
Perhaps it's because my last baby is now 18 months and I've joined the ranks of women who have gone before me- women who have finished having kids. Women who will no longer hold their own new babies in their arms.
And something in me yearns for more, for time to stop (I'll call that thing hormones.) Yet all of me knows that time is moving, my kids are growing and this is a good thing.
So I feel that nostalgia too. The elderly lady glances at me, and I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Her wistful smile makes me wistful too, but also thankful. My kids are full on and I want to get the shop finished, but in that moment, those 5 seconds, I hold onto that whispering feeling of nostalgia and thankfulness, then I let it go and step back into the chaos.
"Someday when the pages of my life end, I know these years will be one of the most beautiful chapters"