Today is the first day of school! Whoo-hoo! Horray! Now what?
Long before today came there was planning for it. Paper chain links were cut and stapled together, creating a visual tracker to how close the day was. Money was saved and then spent on collared shirts and pleated skirts, dress shoes and ninja turtle socks. School supplies were bought, and then exchanged for the updated requirements. Stories were told to the girls about my first day of school, and Daddy’s and what we imagined theirs would be like too. We borrowed dozens of books from the library about school days and friends and teachers. Yesterday, there were two trips to the grocery store because the sourdough bread wasn’t finished baking and roast beef sandwiches with dill Havarti cheese can only go on sourdough(as we all know). We made our traditional Belgium Waffle Ice cream sandwiches last night and sat together after dinner to eat them.
This morning we dissolved the last vanishing crescent moons of summertime nail polish from the girls nails then they showered while I ironed their school shirts. We piled into the car with crisp backpacks and cold thermoses, full hand sanitizers (my bet is they are both empty by Friday) and packed lunchboxes. Both girls, though they talked about nervousness in small voices just before bed at night, held their heads high and smiled brightly. The local fire department (shout out to station ten C-shifters) and county sheriff’s officers lined the outdoor corridors alongside assistant principals and assorted administrative staff cheering on the kids and offering fist bumps and hugs and gentle words of encouragement.
We walked Little Sister in first and it felt like the room swallowed her up. She looked so little there, in her pigtails and pale pink shirt. She was wearing the same navy corduroy skirt her sister had worn on her first day of kindergarten three years earlier. It felt completely surreal. She hugged her teacher and brightened at the welcome to school movie playing on the classroom’s screen. She looked unsure and for a beat I thought of swooping in, scooping her up and taking off. But she gave me the slightest nod and asked if I needed to continue on to Big Sister’s class. I did, I told her. Then we left, continuing on to third grade.
There was a different pace as eight and nine year olds read the board’s directions aloud and simply began to do what needed to be done. I stood as more of a place holder for a few precious minutes with my girl as she handed off tissues, colored pencils and other supplies that wouldn’t need to be kept in her cubby. Again, I wanted to lift her up and twirl her around once more but I settled on a hug. Hadn’t she just learned to call out to me in a gummy rumbling of repeated mum-mum-mum-mum-mummy’s? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she learned to swim? Sigh.
The craziest part? We didn’t cry. None of us. And we are CRIERS. It felt natural, in the same way it felt when I held their baby bodies close to me as soon as they were born. All of the steps we had taken together had led us to this place, leading up to this moment and it felt beautiful. Infants, toddlers, preschoolers and then here we were. I didn’t miss out on being a part of any of it. I had a front row seat to all the b.s. and all the beauty and the only prayer that encompassed the magnitude of what I felt as I walked out of the building was “thank you”. So I said it, over and over and over again.
Thank you to the people who believed in each of us and the unit we made up together. Thank you to my husband for his unending work ethic, the sacrifices he made and the responsibilities he took on so that our landing at this place was a soft one. I cherish the days of little ones but I don’t feel cheated out of any of them. Thank you to the people who encouraged us, who promised that ear-infections and teething and tantrums and potty training would not, in fact, last forever. Thank you to everyone who loved us then and who love us still.
Today has flown by incredibly fast for me, as I hope it does for the girls. It’s unreal being in the house with just the dog. I did four loads of laundry. I worked out. I walked the dog. I made lunch for one and I ate it slowly just because I could. I savored each bite and then, after I washed the cutting board and cleaned the dishes I sat down to write with a three hour expanse of time to do it in.
I am incredibly lucky. I can sing the blues as loud as I want without having to rescind my imaginary microphone to anyone. I can dance (terribly, embarrassingly)without being asked to please, oh Mom, please stop – for the record this is not due to inappropriate or suggestive moves, it’s old school steps delivered without any of the charm of today’s take on the classics. After I got off the treadmill, no one asked for a snack. When I got out of the shower (where no one asked to join me) no one awaited me on the other side of the glass with a broken toy or cut finger – spooky. Today, I got to do me – and figure out what exactly that is. I mean, just try to walk normally when Stevie Wonder’s singing Superstition, with nary a wiggle or head nod – that is not something I can repress forever. In an hour I will pick up the girls. I can hardly wait to hear about their days, their friends and their fears. I get to do me then too and for that I say thank you once again.