6:15 came too soon this morning. I was having some odd dream involving packing my kids’ lunches with frozen ravens when the alarm went off, and my stomach rolled as soon as I remembered what day it was.
The first day of school started like any other, with the exception of the rushed obligatory photos in the driveway. I was grateful for the small tasks of the morning that kept my mind occupied, and by the time James left at 7:35 I felt like I had been awake for hours. I went for a run, my heavy breathing and Broadway show tunes keeping the weepy thoughts at bay for a little while. But the breathlessness lingered; it has been my frequent companion all month.
Now I sit in the bagel shop, contemplating beginnings and ends as I wait for my car to be repaired. I’ve always thought of beginning and end as opposites, but now that I’m the opposite of young, I’m seeing things differently. Beginning and end are points on the same circle; one always follows the other.
August has brought me to my knees this year, with beginnings and ends swirling so fast I have barely processed one before another knocks me over.
The end of my baby being twelve, and the beginning of his teenage years.
The end of my other baby being fifteen, and the beginning of a year I hope is sweet sixteen. She is sixteen. She is easiest to love when she is sweet, but she is always loved.
Today, the end of another one of my children’s eighteen summers home with me. The beginning of eighth and eleventh grade.
And before August is done with me, I will witness the end of my son’s childhood in the eyes of our faith. He will begin Saturday as a Jewish child, and end as a Jewish adult.
On their own, beginnings and ends are neutral. It is the significance we attach to them that give them their strength. If we didn’t feel, or love, or care, then they wouldn’t matter.
But we do. All of the firsts matter because they follow the lasts. Parenthood is full of them, yet I find them harder to accept as the list of lasts, of endings, gets longer and longer.
The last first day that my daughter will be a passenger in the car, instead of a driver.
The last first day of middle school. For my son, and for me.
The last time I will not have to nag about homework, until the next first day of summer.
I know these firsts and lasts are a part of growing up, but it’s the growing up part that I’m having trouble with. It’s what I want for my kids; all parents do. But it’s bittersweet. I was there in the Beginning, and for years I was an integral part of all of their milestones, and every part in between.
Now I see the beginnings and ends, but so much of their lives happen when I am not present. How do I let go of my hearts and allow them to have a beginning without me?
In the bagel shop, the tears are falling without my permission; perhaps I should have written this where I could blubber in private. But the words ease the breathlessness a bit, at least until my babies come home. The first day will end, and my children will begin a new day tomorrow. And for now, still, I will begin with them.