The Last First Day of School
My husband leaves for work really early every morning, so I’m used to sleeping through the 5:00 a.m. alarm. But today was different: School has started and once again, my daughter must begin her day with a cruel 7:00 a.m. 0 period. She instructed her dad to make sure she got out of bed at 5:30, which he did. Then he tried to do the same to me.
“I’ve got another half hour,” I mumbled.
This was true. Yesterday, my daughter noted that she would rather not lug a full lunchbox around school until they issue her a new locker — and that may not be for a couple of days. So freed of the responsibility of making her lunch, I made an executive decision to postpone my shower until after I drop her off… which allowed me to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes.
She spent most of Monday finishing up her summer assignments. I remembered that the light was still on in her room when I went to bed.
“How late were you up last night?” I asked.
No answer. That means she only slept for a handful of hours. I have stopped nagging her about this. Of course, she needs more sleep — but between her studies and assignments and that dreadful early period, it’s not possible. That’s why I also took it so easy on her over the summer, when she stayed in bed past noon nearly every day, as if she could bank all those extra hours of sleep for the Fall.
At 6:30, we were backing out of the driveway.
“Did you ever read The Crucible?” she asked.
No. Death of a Salesman is the only Arthur Miller play I’m familiar with, and it’s been a couple of decades since I gave it a good read.
“The first thing we’re doing is taking a test on it,” she explained, “and I’m having trouble keeping track of Putnam, Parris and Proctor. Too many characters beginning with ‘P.’”
So we drove to school in near silence while she tried to create a mental cheat sheet on which character was which.
We arrived at our destination at 6:50 — right on time. There were already several students milling about.
“I will see you at 3:00,” I said before she slammed the door shut and began her senior year of high school.
I drove away, feeling sad that I had not taken a photo of her to commemorate this occasion. I didn’t even try; she put the kibosh on first day pictures years ago. The only photographic remembrance I will have is the senior portrait she posed for last week, and she was not all that happy about doing that. I’m pretty sure the only reason she went along with it is that it was required for the yearbook, and her father and I insisted. We were happy to receive framed senior photos as gifts from each of her older cousins as they finished 12th grade and we plan to do the same.
“I think it’s weird to give people a photo of yourself as a gift,” she said.
Not if those people are your family and friends who love you.
I got home and fired up Facebook and saw all the updates from my friends with kids who will be graduating this year, and I was reminded of the day I walked her into school for the first time, 12 years ago. The PTA at our elementary school had a tradition of hosting the mothers of the new students with a reception they called the “Tissue Tea,” where the party favors were be-ribboned purse-size packets of Kleenex.
I could use one of those right now. I have a feeling I will need a case of them this year.