"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Monday, August 15, 2011

First days

Post editorial update ... still here.  My kids came off the bus and were dusted by the trash man barreling down our dirt road.  They tell me they slowed their pace just in case he should start inquiring if "these kids" belong to "that house".  Poor kids.  The things they must endure living with me.  Trash man drove on unsuspecting and the kids and I let out our breath like we'd gotten away with ... murder? No, but maybe more like it was the first clean air we'd sucked into our lungs in just a little longer than dead carcasses should be rotting down on a street corner.

Speaking of ...

First days of school!  We were ready.  I can recall arguing mercilessly with my parents in the days leading up to my leaving for college and my father saying that it was a sign.  It deadens the pain once the departed leaves ... at least just a little.

We all felt a twinge of that.

Christian was thrilled to be shed of me, Janie too, Annie looked way too little to be entering junior high, and Grant proclaimed the first day the best ever but all days thereafter just a little darker and did he really have to go back.

But the kicker ...

I dropped in to pick up textbooks prior to the actual first day of high school and Celia took me around to find her locker.  

It was a punch in the stomach.  She did suddenly look so high school ready and more excited than I wanted her to be.  The inhale and exhale that is four years frightened me, looking at the end from the beginning.

I was just there myself.  

A picture flashed to mind of a girl with big hair and bigger earrings suffering the injustice of endurance with "these people".  Sisters who were annoying, brothers who were rude, and parents who turned embarrassment into an art form.  I replayed the video in my head of that girl being forced to ride in the back of a pickup truck with eight loudly singing siblings on a family night outing.  Big hair blowing in the wind, kudzu vines streaming from the truck tailgate where they'd gotten caught in the exodus, and a father who thought it'd be funny to shortcut past the house of her secret crush.

By darnit, I promised myself to hold on to the great relationship Celia and I have even if it were the last chicken-rot-free breath I take.

I drove her to the school on that first day, full of excitement and advice. We pulled up to the drop off curb as cheerleaders poured out of the car in front of us.  They all laughed and hugged, then did back flips down the sidewalk to the front door of the school, built a pyramid while clapping and cheering finally disappearing inside.

"Okay, now I feel a little sick, Mom."  Celia said in intimidation, opening the car door.

"You can do this!" says I, "Just don't let any of the stuff ...."

Too late, the empty water bottles, Kleenex box and random pair of underwear sitting on the passenger-side floor, spilled out unto the waiting high school pavement.

I would have gotten out to assist but I was almost certain the help of a mom in her snowman PJ's in August, would not be okay.

She sighed and tossed the stray paraphernalia back inside as I distractedly watched students pass in front of my car.

"Hey!! There's Ryan Gilbert." I exclaimed, "Maybe you can walk to class with him!!"

Realizing my mistake, I grimaced apologetically as she hung her head at my way too loud, loudness and with an inconspicuous three finger wave, she shut the door.  

The cars rolled forward slowly, leaving me just enough time to hang my makeup free bed head out the window and snap a shot or two of her entering the next four years of her life.

And just like that she was gone.

Feeling cooler than cool ... because I really was just this age ... I dusted off my defensive driving skills and honed my cat like senses to get my giant suburban safely out of that parking lot as teens squealed tires and did donuts to celebrate their first day arrival.

Only thing missing was a little Def Leppard and a pair of LA Gear leg warmers.

And I missed that girl all day.


  1. We call that pre-first-day of school onery behavior "soiling the nest." It's really bad before they leave for college...

  2. So glad to hear you're not in the pokey.