How did we get here already? This question percolates in my bubbling brain every August. My head is like a coffee pot brewing over-roasted beans. This year feels more intense, more pivotal, more emotional.
Zoe sat between my husband and me at Friday’s school orientation. I watched her embrace teachers and friends. Her green eyes, framed with perfectly applied mascara, studied the new principal. Her blonde, braided hair sweetly rested on her shoulders. Flashbacks of preschool and lower school flickered in my mind.
She is entering her last year of middle school. My youngest child exuded excitement mixed with apprehension and curiosity. Zoe’s spectrum of emotions mirrored my own.
I know this will be a huge year of growth and maturation. And Friday was also Zoe’s 14th birthday. FOURTEEN??? I sighed gratefully and thought about how close we still are. I cherish our honest, unconditional loving mother-daughter relationship. I know we are blessed.
My heart pulsed like the coffee grinder I used this morning. It also tightened like an orange being squeezed to make juice. My cup filled with ripe, sweet, and raw feelings about the upcoming year.
Monday I attended Alec’s orientation. I grinned while hugging parents as we exchanged stories about our summers. I watched my 16-year-old son listen intently to his principal. He is now taller than his father and me. Alec’s new short and gel-styled haircut made him look like a young adult.
And he drove himself to school today. “Mom, I’m not waiting for you. I don’t want to be late. Meet you there, ok?” I heard him yell from downstairs. I’m still processing that we took two separate cars. Again I asked myself, “How did we get here?”
After the general meeting, all eleventh graders and their parents headed to the high school. The college counselors spoke to us about SAT/ACT preparations, upcoming applications, community service hours, and more. I think I felt more overwhelmed and flooded with information than the students!
I felt nostalgic. I felt inundated. Most of all, I felt incredulous and a bit numb. But I was ok. This isn’t his last year, I muttered to myself. Get a grip girl.
All was well. I sat between two of my favorite parents, who also happened to be hilarious. Grins and giggles covered my sadness inside. Until the college advisor shared a poignant story.
She spoke about the impact and importance of the application essays. She told us about a prominent college dean, who’d let her read his favorite piece. The applicant wrote about his autistic brother; he taught his brother the ABCs during bath time.
The volcano heated inside me, and I quietly wiped tears as they unexpectedly dripped down my face. Nobody had a tissue, and I was close to erupting. I thankfully swallowed my sadness and other sundry emotions that had surfaced. And I watched as my son stood confidently and strode toward the cafe.
As I walked to the parking lot, I ran into Zoe’s 7th grade science teacher and the one she’ll have this year. Then I stopped by our local bagel store to grab a quick bite. Ironically, I ran into Alec’s 9th and 10th grade language arts teachers!
I got back in my car and took a deep, cleansing breath. My next stop was the pediatrician for Zoe’s annual check up. We entered the office and bumped into a long line of impatient parents holding their highly vocal newborns. Zoe and I love babies, so we were thrilled to see several. Zoe asked and was awestruck when she learned that some of the babies were only four days old.
That’s when it hit me. Another tsunami struck my soul: Sixteen years ago I was a first time mommy attempting to calm a feisty, robust baby boy. Fourteen years ago I was a second time mommy sitting in that waiting room when two-week old Zoe nuzzled her head on my shoulder. I watched with pride as my own little girl, who’s rapidly becoming a young lady, animatedly chatted with moms and dads. She asked such insightful, heartfelt questions.
Life often leads us back to where we started. In a matter of hours, I’d gone from the past, to the present, to the future and everywhere in between. I’ve read multiple pieces in recent weeks about kids leaving for college. I’ve enjoyed viewing the first day of school photos on social media.
Quite frankly, I had no intention of discussing a subject that seems to be saturating websites. But then memories and deeply moving moments transpired. And here I am sharing them with you.
As I cried for the third time today, I realized that yet again the summer travel adventure blog would have to wait. This entry wrote itself. All week my heart levitated and seeped from my eyes. I just took the annual photo of my babies—today is their first day of school.
Though it may sound cliche, it is true: The days are long but the years fly by. Wherever you are and in whatever phase of life you currently reside, I hope you are fully present for each experience. It’s not an easy task, especially with all that surrounds us. Those people who are in front of and beside us are what matters.