It’s the first day of school and I’ve been reading posts by other parents all over the country with children in every grade imaginable. We are all standing on the same precipice and yet the truth is no one sees the same thing, no one feels the exact same searing panic laced with euphoria. It is a kind of jarring unity to nod and murmur, “But not really, because…” and we trail off conjuring a different sweetly scented body wriggling in our arms. The times they’ve bled, the times cousins of our own hurts pass over them like storm clouds.
Two years ago we took Briar to the first day of pre-k and the scars from that experience are still hot to the touch for all of us. For months she apologized for crying on those first days and the delicate pitch of her apology nearly undid me each time. We had a bad experience, fixed it and moved —kind of, because really, where do you go after you put your child in danger? It’s a kind of suspended purgatory from which a part of you never returns.
The morning of pre-k.
The day has arrived. We’ve moved to a new house that fits us like sumptuous pajamas on the season’s fist snowfall that wakes you with its brightness before the dawn. This new house comes with a new school and a trip to school that takes place on a bus. My mind reels at the vulnerability of the situation. I will not accompany her as she heads off to school. I will not be there if there are taunts. The number of students in this school so far exceeds where she got her first taste of school. I am scared and I am not.
Despite still being a sinewy, blue eyed marvel, Briar has shed so many layers of frightened girl. I know without a shred of doubt that I am so far behind, still clutching the bits of her baby self in my fingers as if I can keep them as more than memory. She has taken the tears of those first days, the triumph of the tearless days that followed at a new school and added them upon cross country trips, did-it-myself tasks and more. She can write her name and sling sarcasm like she’s been doing it for years. And, I guess she kind of has.
My job the last few weeks, and I’ve taken it seriously despite my sorrow and barely manageable panic, has been to make this day normal. She is ready, she will be remarkable, just as we have given her the tools to be.
Today my Briar will be like everyone and no one.