Wide Awake: September Again
The very, very last first day
By Marianne Aleardi

On my youngest daughter’s first day of school – in Pre-K – I did what the mother racoon did in her favorite book. I took the palm of Marirose’s hand and kissed it five times. That way, if she started to feel sad at school, she could touch her cheek and get a kiss. Much to my surprise, she quickly took my hand, and kissed it five times.

This was the third daughter I was sending off to school. It was like this locomotive was whizzing by, and I was supposed to feel really happy about the trip – I did, but I was sad too. I think Marirose knew that more than I did. Because when she took my hand, it was like that train ran me over. Such an act of sweetness from this 4-year-old, who turned and walked away, and I couldn’t go with her.

It’s funny how I thought that was upsetting. Because in a flash, my oldest daughter Klein went to high school and then left for college. Then Maura did the same. And then Marirose did.

This month, Marirose begins her senior year of college. This is the last time anyone in our family will have a first day of school. That includes me.

First days of school were always celebrated in our house. We selected special outfits well in advance, and carefully chose new backpacks. We brought back bedtimes and threw around forgotten words like “homework” and “studying.” Like most moms and dads, Joe and I took lots of pictures outside the front door. Even my parents took part, always meeting us at school to hug the girls and wish them good luck. We ended the day by going out for ice cream right from school’s pick-up line.

I would plan a lunch out that day, inviting moms I hadn’t seen all summer. Some years, we had to get a private room because so many moms attended. I thought it made total sense that we moms hold a celebration for ourselves. The day signified growth and possibility, and that was exciting. Not to mention, we had all made it through the long summer with kids who often were bored or loud or demanding or whatever else you want to add here.

In high school and college, of course, we didn’t get ice cream, and backpacks became just really nice bags. But there were still some noteworthy events that marked the wonderful beginning: an email with class assignments, the start of soccer practice, moving into a dorm. Every September began with a significant moment that signaled the start of something new and important. Or at least, it has for the last 20+ years.

But next September, it won’t. And I’ve been unsure how to feel about that. Part of me thinks I should be really sad, and sometimes I am. But the girls’ lives have been changing so much, the transitions don’t knock me over anymore. At least, not all the way to the ground.

The night before we packed the U-Haul and moved Marirose into her new apartment, I had the lucky job of taking out the trash. The sun was setting, and my neighborhood was peacefully quiet. As I was walking down my driveway, I noticed my two neighbors’ houses in front of me. On the right, my neighbors were preparing to do the same as we were, only their oldest was beginning his freshman year in college. And on the left, that family was preparing for their son’s wedding in just a few days.

It hit me that every house in my neighborhood was going through some natural stage of family life. And that seemed perfect and beautiful. Suddenly, I felt thankful and happy that I was experiencing that too.

So, it’s September again. The last first day has come and gone. And more transitions, more significant changes are sure to come. Aren’t we lucky.

Our Women’s Empowerment Series begins on Sept. 9. I hope you’ll come to network with other women, and then listen to a conversation that is funny and smart and really interesting. 

September 2019
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