This morning I stood at the front door and watched Henry, his feet planted at the corner of our street in the cool drizzle waiting for his bus. He was the first one to leave. His body was resolutely turned away from home-ears pricked up, anticipating the sounds of the wheels which would lift and carry him away from here. I wanted to reach through the screen door and scoop his distant figure up in my hands and bring him back inside.
On the morning of the first day of school, the ferocious beast of a mother's desire to watch over her children demands, "Oh, please don't go- we'll eat you up-we love you so." But, like Max, in Where the Wild Things Are- my children said, "No." They all woke at the dawn of a new era of maturity. No one (except The Mr.) rolled back under the covers when I came in to stir them. No one grumbled or cursed this day that robbed them of long, carefree hours. They dressed, they nibbled on breakfast, they combed their hair and brushed their teeth, and remembered their lunches- without a reminder from their hovering mother. They were gracious, grateful little impostors- wrapping their arms around me, cooing whispers of "I love you."
First Born Son was the second to leave. While he waited for The Mr. to take him to his shuttle bus, he kept rattling off names of freshman whose parents had asked him to keep an eye on them in the first weeks of school. Two mothers approached him at the freshman orientation last week-where he was volunteering- and each slipped him $5 to make sure that their young, green teenagers boarded the public transit safely. He is, after all, a sophomore- seasoned in the rhythm, rhyme and reason of high school. I have never seen him so serious about a task. But, the mothers never introduced him to their children; so, he had no idea who he should be shepherding. He resolved to play herdsman to an entire metro bus filled with students- many of whom are freshmen. "It's so much to remember! I've got to figure out who these kids are. There are too many of them! It's too much pressure! Life would be so much easier without children!"
And now, I hold my breath for the afternoon. If only the mothers who had entrusted him to play transportation caretaker to their children knew that it took him three hours to navigate his way home on the first day of school last year (circumventing our neighborhood numerous times and winding up at a Greyhound Station very nearly ready to board for NYC) because he was too proud to ask for help. Then, they might have sought the services of a less direction impaired student.
The last to leave was my girl. This year marks her first year riding the morning bus. She was boundlessly enthusiastic- and asked if we could stand at the corner 15 minutes early- 'Just in case it comes sooner than it is supposed to.' Today I could almost play the tune of my woefulness on the string that was attached from my heart to hers. She is becoming a young lady- losing her fickle love, open to more patience and understanding, more free with her sweetness. She still enjoys when I summon her with a string of pet names: AnnieBananie SweetiePie SugarCakes Bananaberry Poopernutter AnnaBee LoveyDovey HoneyButt. She is a fourth grader- the upperclassman of her school. This is her last year at the early childhood center she has attended since kindergarten. We will be looking ahead to middle school shortly.
Five more of our neighborhood friends and fellow students joined us at the bus stop. All were freshly scrubbed and pressed. All wide eyed and awake. All ready for a new beginning. And we, parents, stood with our iPhones in hand- squeezing them all together to fit into the frame to capture that first day of school. Another memory of our children stepping away from us. Not a single Timmy or Susie hesitated when the bus pulled up and it was time to board. But, I felt the collective inhalation of my peers, a silent plea, "Wait!" with arms out stretched. "Wait, we are not ready to let you go yet." But, it was too late. Their smiling, gleeful, young faces swiftly faded from our view as their yellow chariot turned the corner and carried them toward the hallowed halls of elementary school. And, they're off...
And this, ladies and gentlemen, marks my 100th post.