It's the first day of school.
Henry should be starting kindergarten today. He should wearing a new outfit and a too big backpack and a huge grin or maybe a nervous, tentative face. Back in mid-August, I sat at my desk one night picturing this morning, and I sobbed. Sobbed.
In reality, I would have dropped him off today a bit later than the bus. In reality, tomorrow would be the day I would see him climb on that big yellow bus for the first time, see him holding M's hand. Even though she sometimes rolls her eyes these days in a double-digits tween kind of way, I know she would follow through on that promise to get on the bus with him and make sure he wasn't scared, the promise she made five years ago after she climbed on the big yellow buss for the first time, while he was a baby, sitting in my lap watching. That's the image of the first day of school that has haunted me each September. Now it's here.
Today is the first day of school, but not for us. Henry isn't here to get off to kindergarten and Kathleen's preschool starts next week. Still, we have a habit of seeing the kids off on the first day (and most other days too). Last night I made banana chocolate chip muffins like I did last year. This morning I brewed extra coffee. And at about 7:37 as Kathleen was saying we should eat the muffins with our friends, the bells on the back door jingled.
Despite the gray damp, I carried the muffins outside. We were just sitting down at the picnic table, reaching for our muffins when my friend J called out from down the driveway. "Where are the kids? Bus?!"
M ran into the house for her lunch box.
J ran across the dew-wet lawn in her wedge sandals trying to see where the bus was going.
Kathleen darted this way and that following M and J.
"This way!" J called and we were all off to the corner. N doubled back to grab a muffin off the table. I scooped up Elizabeth as we headed for the busy road.
"Oh, he's turning!" So we all looped back up around the house to the driveway where the bus had picked up the kids last year. M and N had crossed the road and were climbing the steps onto the bus by the time I got there.The bus roared away.
"I didn't get pictures!" J said. And she didn't. There was no excited, nervous, happy, grumbly waiting. No hugs and kisses before the bus actually got here and friends might see. No picture of smiling kids in new outfits and big backpacks waiting for the bus.
Maybe that was my saving grace this morning, that I didn't have to watch it all and think about what I wasn't doing, that I didn't have to see M actually get on the bus, or maybe this is yet one more milestone that is harder in the anticipation than actuality. Three weeks ago I sobbed one night thinking about the first day of school and the ghost of my boy getting on the bus, but this morning didn't even feel like the first day of school. I drank too much coffee and ate too many muffins and herded my girls back inside to start our day. This afternoon, when the kids get off the bus, I'll be on the other side of the river for an appointment for Kathleen. It's the first day of school. Just another September day for us.