The first day began with brand new clothes that fit just right, ironed and starched, and curled hair and shiny new everything. They carried bright backpacks with excitement, only creative lunches inside with sweet notes from Mama hidden away for a spot of home on their first day in a new school.
Their smiles read hopeful, but apprehensive.
I walked them into the cafeteria that first morning, nervous. The kindergarten table seemed easy. A pig-in-a-blanket and instant conversation with total strangers. Sawyer didn’t seem worried.
But, at the third grade table, tears welled up in Adelade’s blue sky eyes. I introduced her to kids at the table. Her confidence waned. Moments later, she was gone, swallowed up in the cinder block maze of a school that I didn’t know, tears still poised on blonde lashes, threatening to slide down her freckled cheeks.
It was a long day.
A bell rang somewhere, and kids poured out of the school, starving. Finally 3:35. I could see my two favorite smiles from across the schoolyard. It had been a good day. A long, good day.
Today a bell rang somewhere. Out of the cinder block maze spilled holes-in-the-knees and too much sock showing between once neatly pressed jeans and now scuffed, dusty tennis shoes. Still starving.
I drove to school with yellow paint on my windows. Words of celebration for a year lived, for songs sung, for math problems solved and books read and read again. Words of joy for the season of sunshine and the beauty of freedom when you’re nine years old. Words of victory for almost-spilled tears that never spilled.
I tied balloons to the top of the car. They were filled with the stuff that makes them fly forever, so when we got home we let them go into the heavens. Bye, kindergarten! we called, as the blue balloon slipped higher and higher into a sky almost as clear as their daddy’s eyes. Bye, third grade! we sang, as the yellow balloon floated above trees, into the place where air changes and winds blow to the other end of the world.
We stood there for a long time, just watching them go. And I thought that standing here, squinting into the bright sky, is a lot like standing in a schoolyard day after day, waiting for a bell to ring somewhere, watching life go.
We shielded our eyes until the tiny dots at the top of the sky disappeared into some heavenly mystery. Then I closed my eyes and let the sun shine down while I breathed in summer.