I think I’ll set my alarm in the morning, she said.
It was the last night before the first day of fifth grade.
I think I’ll get dressed before breakfast, she told herself.
A starting day delayed by state budget cuts and teacher furloughs, compounded by peculiarities of the calendar, had me bracing for a hard reveille on this, the 14th of September already.
I want to be early.
I was still in bed when she tapped me gently on the shoulder. I opened my eyes to see her beside me in her new, first-day dress, hair brushed, jacket on, standing noble and ready, like Liberty herself.
Good morning, Mommy.
This is the kind of day that jolts you into a reality so easily forgotten – a cataclysmic moment when you realize life’s perpetual motion, when you experience for yourself the awesome rush of the scientific fact that there is no such thing as solid ground. There is no permanent state, no place to dwell. Here we are in the middle of motherhood, and there’s no ‘hood to hold onto. We are all, indeed, the mothers of exiles, heartbreakingly homeless and free.
As so often happens without accident, my friend and fellow author Amy Tiemann is musing about this very topic today, and you should read her here and respond here. We should all read and wonder and weep, but not in grief. Our children grow up. Do we?
We walked down the sloping sidewalk to the fifth grade bungalows and she leaned in closer.
I’m nervous, she said. I’m terrified, actually.
I assured her that this, yes, this, would be her finest year, her greatest time, her crowning glory. I have no doubt it will be.
Her friends in range, she walked faster in front as I hauled the sacks of school supplies to her classroom. I lost her in the surge.
Georgia, I called out, do you need me?
She turned back and waved.
I’m crying now, but not in loss. Crying is what mothers do with the fullness that can’t be kept, with the love that never ends. Cry, and wave, and hold a flame along the way that grows longer away.