A First Day of School Reflection


This morning at Mass, our priest spoke during his homily about the nativity of the Holy Mother, which is today. Would that be Marymas? One of the things that he mentioned is that in the today’s readings and Gospel, instead of talking much about Mary’s birth that we are commemorating today, it’s all about Jesus. It’s about how she’ll be bringing the Christ child, the Lord, Jesus into the earthly world that she, and we, live in.

That struck a chord with me as I sat down this morning to write about the first day of school. I thought I was going to write a few hundred words about my feelings on returning home to an empty house; the quiet, the little sounds in the basement of the furnace that I can hear so clearly now that the television is off and the summer screeching has stopped. I thought it would be lonely, but would still give me that renewal that I tend to get in the fall when everything starts up again.

It was supposed to be about me; my coping with what to do for the full days, getting re-organized, and catching up on the summertime neglected me.

Instead, like Mary’s birthday, it’s all about the kids.

And today’s that day. The first day of school in our neck of the woods has finally arrived. From what I’ve seen, we’re one of the last regions to return for the fall session. My nieces went back last week, my nephews the week before that. My Colorado friends even started in mid-August.

Here and now, though today’s our day.

Last week, my middle son went to middle school orientation; my oldest went to college orientation and attended his first day of classes.

My little girl got on the bus alone for the first time this morning, mere hours ago. No big brothers to lead the way; not that she needs any more independence. Yesterday’s argument was if your lip balm is colored it is still lipstick and you’re not allowed to wear it. Because; that’s why.

They’ve all had their moments when the toddler disappeared even if for only one day. It’s a long transition for everyone; two steps forward, one step back.

One day my baby is cuddling in bed and the next she’s painting her toenails. I don’t want to let her grow up. She screams like a banshee, in happy times and angry, but she’s barely above a whisper when my priest says hello to her.

My oldest seems to have crossed the threshold from confused to his family standing to a comfortable big brother. He’s asked for help and advice more times in the last two weeks than in the last two years. He’s reached that trusting place where we’re becoming friends; kind of. He’s eighteen, he drives his own car, he’s a firefighter, he’s in college. He runs errands and cooks dinner. He babysits, which means if he can’t hear them and they don’t blow up the house, it’s all good. He waggles his eyebrows and smirks when he’s trying not to laugh.

About a month ago, my husband tried to clean his room. My son got angry and yelled at him, “Don’t! Leave me alone!” He forgot to pause between ‘don’t’ and ‘leave’ and so it came out, “Don’t leave me alone!” I was in another room laughing and even child#1/adult#3 couldn’t help but laugh. He also forfeited a hug. Much like the one he gave us this morning as he left on his second day of college classes.

My middle guy loves Lego and Minecraft, Star Wars and Batman. He is the curator of my husband’s comic book collection and the comic shop clerks know who to talk to about delays or up and coming specials. He’s very organized and doesn’t like change. He needs timely warnings to prepare him for weekend adventures. Don’t ever tell him something will take five minutes if it will take six. He doesn’t mind waiting if he knows how long the wait will be; exactly how long the wait will be.

It’s taken almost eleven years for him to barely get used to the fact that we do not eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the weekends. Sometimes it’s barely one real meal. This used to take a change in our expressions and a visit to my lap for a hug and whispered explanation. If I want something done properly, however, he’s my man.

#3 is the girliest girl to ever girl. She loves pink and lace, tights and leggings, hats and fancy shoes. She polishes her nails and designs her clothes. She sings and dances, takes care of her babies, and does her hair about about ten times a day. She wants long locks like Rapunzel. She was enamored when I showed her a picture of Crystal Gayle. She works that messy ponytail so well that she puts Scarlett Johanssen and Kristen Stewart to shame. And her feet and hands are the dirtiest I’ve ever seen on anyone. She wears that lacy pink dress and climbs trees. She kicks off her flip-flops to go kick a soccer ball across the yard. She’s got the personality of an entire theatre troupe. She’s a special one.

They’re all special in their own ways and watching them grow into themselves is a double edged sword of privilege and pain.

They are more than my legacy; they are their own. Picking and choosing from their parents and grandparents, their friends and television friends.

They’re becoming.

As they watch their mom, me, in the last few years, converting to Catholicism, finding my way as a Christian and as a writer, adopting compassion, speaking out on all manner of things, and having fun at my “advanced age” I hope they see that their becoming never ends. It grows; it ebbs and flows, it continues and the path darkens and forks, but we are always changing, and whatever path we start on, there are many detours and many opportunities to change our path if the one we’re on doesn’t work out the first time.

The most important thing I hope I’ve taught them is that their lives are not etched in stone, but in sand. One swipe of their palm, one grabbing up of a stick or use of their finger and they are able to draw a new future. Tear the page and throw it in the fire. And most importantly, be you.

Who you may be, become you, my babies.

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