Maybe until I have no reason to go back there. Although I hope I will for a long time, through the generations and the tangled and complex webs we all weave. I plan to go back there for each school year of my kids’ lives, as well as grandkids’, and hey – maybe great grandkids’? When my nephew, Parker, starts school I want to pick a day to pick him up from school with my kids, because that’s where it all started for me. At the very school he will attend, that I attended.
I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again. When I was almost four, my father died suddenly one day. I thought that Scarlet and Des turning four would be more dramatic than it was. In truth, I felt strong when Scarlet turned four. I was strong. I didn’t realize what was coming to me; to us.
When I turned five is when I could make more sense out of what happened to me over a year previously. Only, how can anyone much less a child, make sense of such a personal tragedy? Before kindergarten, I suddenly had a new home in a new town with two new brothers, a new baby sister and a new dad. New dad. That meant that the old one was gone. Really gone.
And this meant he was really not coming back. My mom had to put me on a bus, because we lived on top of a mountain, and away I went to kindergarten on a new bus in a new school in a new town, with a penguin backpack on my narrow shoulders – not even remotely as heavy as the emotional baggage I started carrying then, and maybe started carrying for life. I don’t remember a lot about kindergarten. I don’t remember a lot about being sad. Surely, I was.
Scarlet starting kindergarten was never about Scarlet being nervous. And I assure you I have taken care not to let my anxiety drip onto her and infect or burn her with its relentless wax buildup. She is a force, and she has a mother who fights, a brother who looks up to her, an engaged father, a loving extended family, and most importantly – she did not have a parent die suddenly in front of her. Quite frankly, I was robbed. And that’s not contagious, nor has to be.
I don’t talk about it a lot anymore, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. With everything there is a season, and with this one, there is my racing heart. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t strike me in the unexpected places. And even expected. Sometimes I’ll just be standing in a room, like I did only last week while waiting for an immersive play, and I couldn’t quite catch my breath. I never know when it’s going to hit me but I remember when it first hit me and that was dropping Scarlet off at kindergarten. Something about these aches and pains and changes never sits quite right with me. It hits me in different and expected and unexpected ways than it did as a kid – just like the end of the school year does too. Sailing into summer is different now.
It’s the fact that I always move through it – with and without help, and always with a tool belt that keeps expanding – full of old and new ideas and tricks and magic fairy dust. And because I know there’s always a way over and/or through it, it makes the next time not so bad. Of course I wonder how much of this is going to be my life now. There are so many ways to fight against anxiety – to move through it, to overcome it, to let go and let it wash over you – all the while knowing that the next deluge won’t be as powerful or as strong. Rather, the currents lose steam, or change direction moving lower over just your toes, or maybe the currents take on a new path. You can still see it and acknowledge its power, but you’re not drowning. And you won’t be.
And even if you spectacularly move through it, around it, above it, below it, and even if it takes more measures in the future – little by little – that doesn’t discount your progress or persistence. And it doesn’t mean that harder times aren’t coming, and they might take just that extra little bit of magic to get through, along with the proper support that you need and you ask for.
So how do I feel about school starting? I’ve done the rehearsals, biking around the school with Scarlet, feeling the breeze, and looking at each and every brick on the building. The kids take the bus now, which means I don’t have to face these traumas, which I long-ago decided didn’t mean I was wimping out, but rather, finding an easier way for myself through known landmines.
I want to know that I can show up there, though. And I want to know that my heart rate can slow and my breathing can steady, and I can stand tall and proud to drop off a fifth grader and a second-grader. And I can continue to do so every year. Back to school, I love you and I hate you but I’m ready for you. Come at me with your best shot and I’ll keep learning to take your hits.
I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday (FTSF) for another great prompt. This week’s topic is “Back to School..” And there’s time to write yours. Link up your post HERE.