Thoughts on a parent's milestone birthday, and the first day of 4th grade (with best wishes to kids everywhere for a great school year)
Another beautiful steamy late summer morning to herald the arrival of another “1st day of school”. Our 5th first day of walking down our driveway and up our gravel road towards our little old village school that we so cherish. It is far different now than kindergarten was, especially her height!
It is impossible to miss signs of change beyond the seasons. Neighbors who’ve sold houses and moved away, the missing house that burned down, and the ghosts of older fellow walkers who now ride the bus to middle school. We’ve joined the ranks of the big kids at school, expected to be role models and mentors to the little kids. Things are different, the neighborhood vibe is different, and the only thing that remains the same is that it’s her and I walking, and me marinating in a flood of thoughts and memories.
Fourth grade was my favorite year for a lot of reasons. Life was good; I moved up to the new school, and I was in class with other kids who were smart and enjoyed school (and many of whom I remain friends with today!). I was blissfully unaware of the living hell that awaited me in 5th grade. It was a mostly awesome year, and I suppose too it was the end of the innocence in a lot of ways.
We managed to get everyone to bed at a decent hour last night, despite the anticipation, and being off our rockers from the 450-mile drive home from eastern CT and my dad’s 80th birthday celebration. Putting together the slide show for his party with highlights from a full life now well into its golden years certainly gave me perspective for appreciating these fleeting and ephemeral moments as slowly as possible, savoring them for their richness of emotion. Surprisingly, I hadn't really contemplated it until now - over a couple minutes of photographs to see a life unfold from a newborn and childhood, through marriage and parenting, and the good fortune of a relaxed retirement and grandchildren.
With more good fortune and God’s grace, in 2087 her children will be putting together a slide show of her life for her 80th birthday party. Perhaps it might include one or two of these pictures and memories from her childhood, including the 1st day of 4th grade and celebrating her grandfather’s 80th birthday. I won’t be around to speak for myself then - to say how proud I am of the person that she’s become, or what a rich, full and unique life she’s lived. In fact, I have no guarantees about anything other than I’m likely to walk up to school to pick her up today, and hear all about her first day of 4th grade.
As a friend put it so wisely to me the other day, we’ve reached the age where the inevitable and inexorable move towards separation begins, and the child begins to leave their childlike ways behind. I’m sure none of us are ever really ready for that, but we have no choice. Change is as inevitably constant as the rising sun. There is no going back except to reminisce about what once was. Thankfully, each day has 24 hours, and each year 365 and 1/4 days. Cherish all of them, and don’t be reluctant to stretch the good ones out as long as you can.
I wonder if she’ll be taller when I walk up to get her this afternoon? And if tomorrow will be high school graduation day?
“Don’t be sad a thing is over. Be happy that it happened at all”