Prepping for the first day of school is part Toddlers and Tiaras, a bit of Disney Junior, and just a dash of that aisle in Hallmark with those cards that make you cry no matter how cynical you strive to be. It’s so much Mickey Mouse on GoGo Juice, but with the melancholy.
Yesterday was First Day Eve, which is a term I just coined and will allow you to use if credit is provided. You’re welcome. Anyway … it was the day before school, which means it was the last day of summer, but rather than running wild through the sunshine one last time we spent our precious hours getting haircuts, finalizing classroom supplies, and planning lunchbox menus. Summer is in like a lion and out like a lamb.
I just dropped the kids off for their first day of school and despite the haircuts, unstained clothes, and meeting new teachers, I can’t help but shake the feeling that school was always here. It feels like summer never happened—we have always stood in the playground grass with dew on our shoes and told the kids to put the stick down. Summer is just a thing we read about, 50 Shades of Summer. It sold a billion copies.
The fourth grade classroom seems to hold a lot more kids than the year before, and it is too many. The students march in, sit down quietly, and start the worksheet waiting on their desks. They are already oblivious to the mob of parents with cameras at the ready. Any nerves they may have shown outside have been swallowed whole. Fourth graders own their butterflies. There is comfort in the system.
The first grade classroom offers room to grow. The majority of kids were in kindergarten together and they take to their new adventure like the turning of a page. The parents see only chapters.
The grown-ups hover in the shadows waiting to be needed, but we get nothing—just waves and pick up times. We were needed yesterday and for an hour in the morning. We will be needed for rides home, to practice, to a friend’s, and we will be needed in the middle of the night when the braveness of big boys is bent by dreams and the echoing of darkness. We will be needed always, except for the moment that the school bells rings, when we can’t let go and the children have no need for holding on.
“Who is ready for school to start?” shouted the principal into her bullhorn. The kids went wild.
I put my hands in my pockets and wandered slowly back to the car. We were all as ready as we would ever be.