The night before we talk about the next day with the big one and talk about a first day of school outfit. She switches from her favorite Justice t-shirt and skinny jeans to sparkly leggings and a hot pink tunic with a bow headband. You never get a second chance to make a first impression so dress to impress.
“Mom, where is my class again?”
“The second door on the left as you enter the hall. You’ll remember.”
Monday morning arrives just a bit earlier than all of the mornings during the summer, but just as sleepy. After I’m dressed I head through the living room to the kitchen.
“I need everyone up and putting on clothes. No dressing, no TV.”
“But I’m eating my corn dog.” (James eats a corn dog every single morning.)
“Five minutes and then I’m turning off the TV if you aren’t getting dressed.”
In the kitchen, I start packing the requested back to school lunch, peanut butter sandwich with honey. I add some grapes, a few chips, and some juice to round everything out. I decide to pack myself a sandwich (ham and cheese for me), grapes, and a few chips as well. So much easier to pack two than to pack the one.
“Mom, which class is mine?”
“The second on the left. Go get dressed.”
Lunches are finished, “Cady do you want breakfast?” She doesn’t always eat in the mornings. She prefers to eat later, but that doesn’t work when she is in school.
“Yes. A breakfast sandwich.”
She comes in the kitchen, all sparkly leggings and hot pink tunic. An outfit that would have been very similar to something I would have worn on my first day to school way back when. Some how over the summer she has managed to grow by leaps and bounds, both of them have, and now she is tall enough to fit right under my chin.
“Mom, can you tell me one more time where my class is?”
“Second on the left Babe. You’ll be fine. Your teacher’s name is right above the door. Go brush your teeth.”
She leaves to brush her teeth. “James, how is it going?” He comes in the kitchen for me to button his shorts, but in the process he starts doing the potty dance.
“I have to go weally bad.”
“Ok, but hurry and come right back.”
A breakfast sandwich for Cady and one for me. James had his corn dog and he will eat more breakfast at daycare. Coffee is prepped. Backpack is ready with the lunch kit next to it. My lunch is packed and ready for me to grab as I walk out the door.”
“Mom, can you write a note where my class is that I can take with me?”
“Sure. Go get one of the notes for me.”
She brings me the yellow pack of post it notes and write her teacher’s name at the top.
“Can you put an arrow so I know which side to look on?”
I draw the arrow. “You’re going to be fine. You’ll find it. And there will be people there to help. Let’s get our shoes on.”
We head to the living room where we find our shoes and start putting them on.
“James your shirt is on backward.”
“I know how to fix it.”
He turns his shirt around all by himself and goes to brush his teeth.
“Alright guys we need to move it. We’ve got two minutes. Cady, let me take a photo of you for your first day of school.”
She grabs her new backpack and lunch kit and gives me a great big smile filled with first day jitters. James is finished brushing his teeth and I help him with his socks and shoes. We grab our things and head out the door.
Everyone is quickly buckled in their seats and we head to school. James is dropped off first because his routine is really not changing. He just gets a new teacher and classroom, but in the same building he has been in for a year. They have already been transitioning him to his new class, and nothing will be that different for him.
I drive to Cady’s new campus. The traffic is crazy with all of the parents bringing their kids in for the first day. After a week or so things will level out and drop off will go much quicker. We finally get to the drop off point in front of the school.
“Is this where I get out?”
“I don’t know. Oh look, here’s a teacher. I guess you do.”
The teacher opens the back door all smiles, “Good morning!”
Cady grabs her things as she gets out of the car, yellow post it note clutched tightly in her hand.
“I love you Babe. Have a great first day!”
She jumps out of the truck and starts the walk into school. I pull away from the curb and start making my way through the traffic. It happens when I pull out into the street. My heart clenches like it is being squeezed in a vise, and my lungs stop pulling in air properly. Biology quickly takes over, and while my body operates the way it is supposed to, I feel like a lead weight has been pressed into my chest.
I quickly start to think about other things to distract myself, what I need to do at work, this post, anything to stop the inevitable. Then I realize that in the rush I did not get a chance to give her a kiss or even a squeeze of the hand. The tears build up and spill over. There is no stopping them.
Another year, another inch, another shoe size, and another step closer to the door.