We blinked (slowly), and it was September. Two months had somehow passed and it was time for the boys to abandon their play-all-day lifestyle and return to the realm of structure and learning and social interaction.
‘I’m not as excited about school starting this year,’ the Gort mused aloud at the dinner table one night. ‘Why,’ I inquired. ‘Because this summer was really great,’ he concluded and I sighed a silent sigh of relief that the trip through the desert hadn’t killed his spirit, after all.
As the last days of summer break unfolded, we did some final shopping for boots and clothes, and sorted through their dressers and closets to see what fit and what didn’t. The boys got excited for the first day back to school, with brand-new indoor shoes to go in their (new) backpacks and brand-new clothes to wear on their first day and phone calls from their new teachers.
But all I felt was increasingly nostalgic. I lay in bed the night before and considered that each kid only gets 12 ‘first days of school’ and the Gort was about to use his fifth, which meant I only had 7 ‘first days’ left with my oldest. And Percy was likely to start Kindergarten next year which meant I only have 12 ‘first days of school’ left as a parent. Total.
Also, the Hen was about to start Grade 1, which meant he would be gone all day instead of the two hours and forty minutes of last year (which was really just enough time to drink coffee and check email, and for Percy to watch My Little Pony.) This realization spawned a question: what on earth was poor Percy, youngest member of the party-of-three, going to do for six and a half hours a day by himself?
Instead of euphoric relief that the days of ‘all family all the time’ were over……
Via Facebook, Source: Unknown
….I felt kind of sad.
On Tuesday, the morning we’d been thinking about all summer arrived. The boys jumped out of bed and donned the outfits they’d set aside four days earlier. The Hen, who’d lost his second tooth the night before both literally and figuratively, remembered the tooth fairy had not paid him a visit. ‘Dad didn’t find my tooth,’ he realized. ‘That’s okay, I don’t care, it’s just money and what am I going to do with money.’ I was about to weigh in, but he kept going. ‘Then I’d just be rich and I don’t want to be rich because then the police would stop me because they would think I robbed a bank or something.’
I stood, watching the scene in disbelief before the snorts of recognition set in: a mini-professor, that kid.
Because it was a big day, I’d made a nutritious breakfast of ‘overnight’ steel-cut oats. For the first time, ever. ‘Umm, I like the other kind of oats better,’ the Gort opined before choking back a few tablespoons of porridge. Which were sure to sustain him for the first fifteen minutes of school.
The nine year old packed lunches for himself and his brother. And there was still a bit of time before we could walk to school, so the Gort and I played a game of chess while the Hen stood at his side advising his every move.
Let me reiterate: steel cut oats, kids and parents wearing (nice) clothes, packed lunches, chess and everyone out of the house by 8am.
Yes, the first day of school is the one and only day of the year that the Johnsons achieve a modicum of organizational success. The rest of the year we get out of bed far too late (everyone except the Hen, that is), throw food in lunchboxes (when we haven’t left them at school the previous day) and forget our homework.
We dropped off the boys, doing our best to strike a balance between ‘hovering’ and ‘careless’ as we took each one to their assigned meeting spot, leaving them with one last ‘be kind’ and ‘have fun’. Whatever ‘fun’ means when you’re at school. The three of us walked home. ‘I can’t believe we have a fourth grader,’ the professor sighed sadly before going to work.
And then there were two.
It became clear Percy was not going to jump into the siblingless life with a sense of excitement and abandon. So I cobbled together a series of errands to get us out of the house. We went to the store to return some things, and I ran into a fellow school-mom. We chatted while Percy headbutted my stomach like a bull in Pamplona; the morning’s nostalgia waning quickly with each repetitive assault on my abdomen. And then we went to the library to pick up some books and movies. I was standing at the new releases shelf where I’d picked up season 3 of Downton Abbey and a copy of Safe Haven. I would normally make fun of people watching Safe Haven, but I was a women who’d recently lost two children to school. An undoubtedly sappy (stalker) romance with Josh Duhamel was precisely what was needed.
I was still perusing the shelf when a woman walked over and scanned the contents. ‘Agh, no Safe Haven! The librarian said it was over here.’ I looked at the stack of movies in my arms and debated for a nanosecond. ‘Safe Haven? Here you go,’ I handed her the DVD. She started to protest, embarrassed by my gesture. ‘Happy Monday,’ I insisted. Before realizing it wasn’t, actually Monday. ‘Or Happy Tuesday, whatever day it is.’
Was it kindness on my part? Or knowing the professor would make fun of me if I brought it home? Maybe both.*
After the library, we stopped at Target and went home to make the pancakes I’d promised the young lad. A friend and her four year old son joined us for coffee and then we walked back to school to pick up the boys.
‘How was your day?’ I greeted each one excitedly.
*Actually, seeing as it was rated 13% on rottentomatoes, I should probably be thanking the purple-shirted woman for taking it from me.