" I'll be alone
each and every night
While you're away,
don't forget to write
Bye-bye, so long, farewell
Bye-bye, so long
See you in September
when the summer's through..."
I've always loved this song, recorded by The Association (and, as my husband - who teaches a course on "the popular song" - reminds me..others.. including the Tempos, Shelley Fabares, the Happenings...) in the 60s. It dances through my head everytime I think about shopping for three-ring binders and cutting down brown-paper grocery sacks (and ironing the paper flat) so we'd be ready for the arduous task of covering all the heavy textbooks we were sure to be lugging home after the first day of school.
I posted on this topic in September when the leaves were turning from a blanket of green against blue sheets of clouds and sky, to a carpet of mustard, russet, burgundy and…okay, bring me a fork because this is starting to sound like a great meal from Café Provencé …or something you might need a pitchfork to get rid of.
Okay, so I wax poetic and I digress. Anyway, I will start over…
The leaves were brown and crunchy from searing heat this past September but I still felt some kind of “pull of the moon” aching for new pencils and the smell of freshly mimeographed pages of math worksheets, and the sweet cool air of autumn when the time came for the girls to grab their backpacks for the first day of “academic year 2006-07”. We sent them off with a hearty “have a great day” and a few tears (mine, not theirs) as they climbed into the car with their new brother for the commute from our urban neighborhood to their suburban campus.
It was a great day. And usually, whether as a student, teacher or parent, I indulge in one of those a year and get my fix.
Ah…but this year I get two. And for this former overachieving bookworm of a student, consummate classroom junkie of a teacher, and recovering homeroom-mom addict, nothing could be better. More tears, more nostalgia, more ”pencils, and paper, and chalk..oh my!” (must be sung to the tune of “Lions and Tigers and Bears”). "See you in Janaury"...not so much... it just leaves something to be desired...and it's just not that catchy..
As you may know, our daughter decided to complete her high school career in South Africa. This is a dream come true for her. Becoming her mom was mine, so I couldn’t be more thrilled that she is getting to have hers come true, too. I got out the pictures from her first day of Kindergarten. I scanned and sent them to her as a reference point for how amazing God is.
And He/She is…
There I was in pictures taken 12 years ago smiling as her dad snapped shots of her in her little dress and new shoes, her backpack properly and snugly over her shoulders. There we were holding hands sitting on the front steps of our house at 7:30 in the morning, recording a day for future reference. And as I sat there, I knew what that future reference was. I had always known…with every journal entry recorded of her first tooth, her first step, her favorite food. It was always in the back of my mind each time we took a photo of her dance recital, her birthday party, her new dress. It was always there in my heart…there would always be someone I would want to be able to share Hannah’s life with. There is a cosmic order to the universe.
I was able to recall my first day of taking her to Kindergarten with such sweet joy and without any overarching sadness. I could remember the hours my sister and I spent sitting on a picnic table outside of our kids’ classroom, teary and anxiously waiting for them to emerge. How fragile and silly I felt when the teacher marched by with the entire class for a tour of the school with us still there two hours after drop off. I was grateful for the kind look of mixed understanding and sympathy she gave us as they paraded by in a perfect Kindergarten line. That compared much more favorably to the look she and her cousin gave us when they saw us waiting. It was the first time I realized I could be an embarrassment to someone I loved. I thought that privilege was reserved for my mother.
As I sit here today and smile about all the things she will enjoy about school this year…class pictures, homework, finding a system for remembering library books before they are overdue, prom…I know I will enjoy them in my own way. I am certain of this because I don’t feel ten thousand miles away on this first day of school. I realize that I am as close to her as my love for her is in my heart and my thoughts of her throughout the day.
Yesterday I found myself making the 7-hour time zone adjustment hundreds of times as I thought about her finding a group to sit with at lunch, organizing her locker, and emerging from the building eager to share the interesting, funny, and sometimes unsettling details of the first day of school…
“A mother’s affection cannot be weaned from her child,
because the mother love includes purity and constancy,
both of which are immortal.
Therefore, maternal affection lives on
Under whatever difficulties.”
-Mary Baker Eddy
It is neither time nor proximity that makes you a mother…it really is only Love that does…