School bus yellow is quickly becoming my favorite color
Growing up, my mom’s favorite holiday was always Back to School Day.
In the weeks leading up to the day my brother and I would return to school, she gleefully braved the throngs of customers at Target, grabbing boxes of crayons and packages of socks. She happily wrote checks for lunches and sports physicals. She relished in making us “practice” for school by making us go to bed an hour earlier than our summertime bedtimes, waking us up at 6 a.m. and making us go outside with a piece of toast in a paper towel, wearing our new backpacks so we could “practice” waiting for the school bus to pick us up.
Those were the worst weeks of summer for my brother and me. Didn’t she want us at home? Wouldn’t she miss us? What was she going to do all day when we went back to school? Didn’t she love us enough to keep us out of school?
And then Back to School Day came. My mother faced the day with a jovial anticipation as she woke us up and helped us get ready for school. Sometimes she sang “Rise and Shine!” at the top of her (jovial) lungs.
Years later, I learned that my aunts felt the same way as my mother, and that on the first day of school, once my cousins, brother and I were all safely tucked away in classrooms, they celebrated by going out for coffee or lunch all by themselves.
They didn’t need kids’ menus and soda didn’t get spilled. They just sat in near silence at the table, like POW victims just released from a three month-long stint in the enemy’s camps.
My daughter entered kindergarten two weeks ago. Now I get what my mom and aunts were feeling for all those school years.
I have never enjoyed more swiping my credit card than when I bought her school supplies. Like my mother before me, I implemented early bedtimes and early wake-ups. I drove my daughter by her school on a weekly basis and pointed out her new classroom. I made her practice writing her name and the ABCs, not only because I want her to have beautiful penmanship but really because summer was drawing to a close and I was at my wit’s end trying to entertain her without resorting to yet another episode of “Scooby-Doo.”
As she counted down days until school began, I also counted down the days until my first annual first day of school coffee date with my husband, the coffee date at which we would not have to clean up chocolate muffin crumbs.
The first day of kindergarten came. I was “tough” up until we actually came to the school and then my stomach knotted up.
I clutched my daughter’s hand as we walked to the playground. When she ran off to play with the other children — without first hugging me goodbye — I was crushed. I definitely was not the mother who stood in the middle of the playground and wept, but I wasn’t the tough cookie I thought I’d be, either.
My husband had to drag me off the playground. I drove around the block twice just to see her, make sure she was OK.
It was a quiet and a solemn coffee date. I sat in a shocked silence. My baby was gone. Gone! To some other woman!
Other mothers, veteran moms of middle schoolers, came by our table and gave their sympathies.
Next year, I think I may invite my mom, treat her to coffee. Reminisce a little. Maybe get her to admit she really was sad to see us go to school after all.
Then again, after a year of full-day kindergarten and three months of summer vacation, maybe I won’t be nearly as sad.