The boys went back to school today. The ritual begins, seasoned with nostalgia -- a bittersweet reminder of my own childhood, crawling out of the covers into morning darkness, the air thick with the end-of-summer-almost-fall feel. It’s the passing of time; filled with anticipation and new beginnings and heavy with memories fading like poloroids left out in sunlight, bleaching out the familiarity of smiles and eyes.
My oldest wondered about his new teacher. What would she be like? Would she have a quiet voice or loud? Would she give a lot of homework? Sean didn’t seem to share in any of those concerns, although he did say quite firmly that he wanted “hot lunch.“ The last week before the start of school had been like the last couple miles of a marathon -- my patience growing thin, almost threadbare, muscles snapping and mind melting. So today felt like my body leaning into the finish line, the ribbon falling at my feet and arms raised triumphantly.
Another year has passed. Another year begins. And soon another school photo will be placed in the frame in front of last year‘s photos and the school photos before, (smiles with missing teeth, cowlicks and button noses) becoming distant glimpses of another time. My boys are growing, you can see it in these pictures, losing their softness and doughiness -- their features becoming sharper, more angular.
Last night the darkness creeped in, the moon hung high and fat, like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked from the sky. I pretended the moon was a lucky poker chip and slid it into the ante and thought, “I’m all in so let it ride.” I’m hoping this might be the year that I find Sean cuddled up in his bed reading a book or receive an invitation in the mailbox for a birthday party from a friend in his classroom. Maybe it will be the year where he looks at me plainly and kindly and says,
“It’s been hard inside here. But now it’s going to be okay. I’m here and I’ve missed too much.”
That’s the downfall to this time of year. The air moves like whispers, full of possibilities and magic, frosted in a sliver of impending cold. And yet there is only so much magic and often not enough to spread around. But I don’t want to give up hope. I am practical. I have played out the saddest scenarios in my head, hoping to build up permanent body armor underneath my aging skin. I don’t want to break too badly -- disappointment and expectations crumbling in my fists, rubbing dust from finger tips.
So today, I watch the army of yellow busses moving in teams to the schools, the exhaust like white hot steam and the sun struggling to crack the morning like the glossy golden yolk from an eggshell. And I can’t help but hope (or maybe dream) that this year might be a good one.
Sam Smiles Project
3 months ago