Well, the last of the “first day of ___ grade” pictures have ticked through the scrolls of social media. As the breezes begin to carry a slightly cooler tune, the mamas and papas have slipped (slammed?) back into the routines of sack lunches and earlier bedtimes. The tears have been shed over the waving goodbye to all the babies eagerly walking into dorm rooms, bravely walking into high school, timidly walking into first days of kindergarten and middle school. Ready or not, the sun tanned and flip-flopped feet have scooted into the fresh darkness of scuff-less school shoes.
After months of making big decisions and gathering records and researching and weighing options, we were all ready to set sail on a new adventure as each of the kids started at brand new schools. New neighborhood, new district, new schedules, new friends, new parents, new opportunities. After such a process, I found myself mildly unamused when I received a notification from one of the kids’ old schools, informing me that my child had been marked absent for one or more class periods that day. I was quick to see to it that the confusion was corrected, admittedly with an eye roll. It wasn’t until later that the seemingly insignificant miscommunication sunk in.
The beginning of this school year finds me with one starting high school, one starting middle school, and one at an elementary school without an older sibling there for the first time. (Enter, “How did I get so old? How did THEY get so old? Enjoy them while you have them. The days are long and the years are short….etc.”) Yep, a lot of land marks for us this year. Oh, and the one starting kindergarten. That’s a big one. The very first time away from mama for more than a few hours. The very first lunch box. The picking out of the very first school outfit ever. The practicing of writing her name, and pronouncing her teacher’s. Choosing between pigtails or braids for that first day, and learning what number the little hand has to get to before mama will be waiting out front with a big smile and open arms. That is what got forgotten though; I didn’t get a phone call about her missing class. Because nobody missed her.
The words whipped the air right out of my chest, and my eyes stung fierce. That lone elementary student of mine? She shouldn’t be alone; she should be the older sibling this time, holding that nervous little 5 year old’s hand as they walk into school together. But just like the rush of cars in the drop-off line quickly dwindles to silence, the rest of the world has moved on. Her teacher still stands in front of the class and introduces herself with a welcoming smile, and her friends still dash pink-cheeked around the playground looking for one more to join their game of tag, but her teacher will never know she is absent from class, and her friends will not know they are missing her brown pigtails and her easy smile.
There will always be these breathtaking moments in the ebb and flow of grief I suppose; some familiar, some untraveled, and all of them needing to be stared in the face and acknowledged and felt. Each of these hashes on the blank timeline of my life brings the juxtaposition of experiencing wonderful new adventures coupled with wrenching absences that cannot be called in and excused. Never will hurt obscure my ability to seize the joy in these life moments, nor will the presence of great excitement mean that the potency of my empty spaces has diminished. Because I have chosen to open my heart to love, it has also been lain bare to the things which scar. These moments which steal breath and threaten to break souls may leave me grasping for words and understanding, but the dark will always be at my back at I turn my face up to wait for the sun that always comes. Always.