Earlier this week Isaac, my youngest, went back to school. He is a senior in high school this year. I realized as I dropped him off that this was the last "first day" of school I would experience with my boys. Whoa. My last first day. Now this doesn't seem even remotely possible especially with Isaac. You see, Isaac was born 2 weeks before his next oldest brother, Andrew, started kindergarten. When he was born and I was looking at five more years with another little guy at home before he even started school, I remember asking myself, "When am I ever going to experience going to the bathroom without someone walking in on me again?" But those five years flew by and suddenly the day arrived for Isaac to start kindergarten. It was a day I will never forget but not for the reason you might expect. I took Isaac to his classroom at Lincoln Alternative School just like all three of his older brothers and we walked around until we found his desk: A little gingerbread man name tag was waiting for him along with a new box of crayons, a pair of blunt-tipped scissors and 2 new, unsharpened pencils. Once Isaac was settled into his spot I started looking at the other children and parents in the room. The little girl right next to Isaac had her big sister with her and the sister was tenderly and sweetly consoling the child, encouraging her that everything would be fine and she will truly love kindergarten. I turned to away to glance at the scene around me. The same "happy", "mad" and "sad" teddy bear faces decorating the walls, the animal alphabet pictures all across the top of the chalkboard, the storybook shelf and paint easels all neatly set up just like like it was when Isaac's brothers were kindergarteners there. In the middle of the room there were lots of video cameras recording and cameras snapping. A few children were sort of whimpering, some were actually sobbing and others were already launched into high gear complete with shrieks and giggles. There were lots of even younger children and babies bumping into adult legs and chairs which was then followed by their immediate, inconsolable tears -in other words, it was mass hysteria. About this time I noticed how peculiar it was that so many of the children had been brought to school on this momentous first day by their older siblings: teenage brothers and sisters instead of their parents. I was really struck by this odd turn of events.
Even though this was my fourth child to begin kindergarten, I wouldn't have missed this day for anything.
Slowly the light of reality dawned on my thick skull and I began to feel really weird: like all the air was being sucked out of my lungs. All these youngsters I'd mistaken as older siblings were these kids' parents!!! I was still reeling from the shock of this realization when a girl came over to me (1 swear she could not have been old enough to vote) and introduced herself, "Hi, I'm Tiffany and this is, like, my daughter, Haley. Are you, like, her teacher?"
I pointed to Isaac and said, "Oh no, this is my son and he is starting school today too."
The look on Tiffany's face was priceless. Talk about the turn of the knife. I could just hear her saying to herself, "Poor child, he probably will be visiting his mother in the convalescent home about the time he starts college."
Now here it is, 13 years later and Isaac has reached his last year of high school (Wouldn't Tiffany be surprised that I'm actually still alive?) and I am filled this incredible bittersweetness that mothers have experienced for centuries. That moment of reality that this part of my life is quickly drawing to a close. I still make Isaac's school lunch every day and put it in a brown sack with his name and a smiley face drawn on it. When I was making four lunches every day, and helping with four different kinds of school projects (You know, a diarama, book report, science project and spelling test all due on the same day) I remember thinking, "I am not going to survive this". Not only did I survive, I thrived in it. I loved it.
I know there are still many, many "firsts' waiting for me in my life. I'm just getting started in some regards. Oh, but the "lasts" are hard to take. There will be many of these this year with Isaac. So I'm going to acknowledge them and celebrate them and then move on, looking for all those new "firsts" that I just know God has waiting for me to experience.