I spent all summer thinking, in vague terms, about my oldest becoming a first-grader; a full-time student. But in the final week before he was to report for duty, the looming reality was at the forefront of my thoughts. To the point of being ridiculous.
My mind was consumed with thoughts, like it’s my last trip to Costco with all three children, before the Gort starts school. It’s my last trip to the Superstore with all three children, before he goes to school. It’s our last afternoon of just hanging around the house before Grade 1 starts. It’s our last dinner together before the Gort becomes a first grader. It’s the boys’ last bath together before school starts. This is the last story [Peter Pan, of all things] I will read him before he goes to Grade 1.
As though, by continually reminding myself that any given situation might be a ‘last’, I would make it more…meaningful?
As I prepared his ‘last’ supper, I felt a bit like I was cooking for someone about to be executed, which only reinforced the ridiculousness of my hyper-reflection. ‘What do you want to eat for dinner,’ I’d asked him, fully prepared to pull out all the stops. ‘I don’t know,’ he answered, as if he couldn’t think of anything he actually liked to eat. I prodded some more. ‘Tomato soup and cheesy bread,’ he finally decided.
I had to suppress the urge to veto his choice for something more festive, more celebratory. More interesting.
So I made tomato soup and cheesy bread. And I decorated the table with the three nasturtiums and sweet peas that had finally sprouted in my weed-patch. And we had (zucchini!) muffins and warm cider afterwards, while chatting (very briefly) about school. And his goals for the year: help with dishes eight times, watch sports with Daddy, obey the teacher, and help clean up in the classroom.
After his ‘last’ haircut and bath-time, I set out his clothes for the next day.
I figured it should be within my rights as a mother of boys to choose one outfit for them per year, and I was quite proud of the jeans, striped long-sleeve t-shirt and plaid short-sleeve shirt ensemble I’d assembled. Even the socks matched, in a cool way. ‘Do you like this outfit?’ I asked the Gort, hoping it would meet with his approval. ‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘I think I will look the best of all the grade one-ers.’
And that’s how I knew…..that he would almost certainly reject my outfit five minutes before we had to leave for school. That there was a 95% chance he would attempt to locate the Ball State Family Picnic t-shirt and the ripped, too short jeans I’ve hidden away, and try to wear them instead.
As I putzed around the house after the boys were asleep, I started thinking about how I’d have to get up at the crack of dawn. And pack a lunch (five days a week for the next twelve years.) And get out of the house before 8. And say goodbye to my firstborn for six and a half hours.
Suddenly, I didn’t know which was worse.
And then the day arrived. At 6.45am, the baby woke up, but the Gort snored on. So the little one and I went downstairs where I gathered the breakfast things and began this epic adventure of school-lunch-packing. Finally, around 7.30, my oldest bounced into the kitchen.
He hugged me. Completely of his own volition. ‘I’m going to miss you today,’ he announced in a matter-of-fact, unsentimental way. And, when the professor came downstairs, our blondie hugged him too. It was a sweet, gift of a moment, that was somewhat diminished when, at 7.45am, I heard the Gort yelling for me. ‘I don’t like this shirt…..it’s itchy.’
So, yes, we had a fight about his outfit. And, this time, I won. Probably for the ‘last’ time.
Our car-van pulled into the school parking lot a few minutes ahead of schedule. We walked to the gym where the first graders would meet their teachers. I deposited the Gort among a circle of peers, tousled his hair ‘goodbye’ and stepped back. (And, discreetly, took a few pictures.)
No pomp. No circumstance. No tears.