those first-day-of-kindergarten blues

A couple of weeks ago, at 7:45 in the morning on a bright September day, Jude got on the school bus for the first time. He was wearing his green crocs and a Yankees baseball hat. He didn’t turn around, he didn’t look back. With unfamiliar feelings tugging at my heart, I watched him sit in the first seat behind the driver and buckle himself in. He’s been awaiting this exact moment for three years.

At 7:45 in the morning, on a bright September day, I turned around and walked slowly back to an empty house.

I’ve been mothering, for better or worse, since January of 1996. Those first weeks were a tremendous shock; going to sleep was just a tease, I would have to get up within a couple of hours, anyway. The weekend as two long, lazy days to myself lost all meaning, forever.

I’m an artist. Whether I like it or not, I have always been an artist. It’s not something you choose; it chooses you. Finding some kind of a balance between my genetic need for creativity on one side, and between dishes, laundry-folding, bed-making, bathroom-cleaning, errand-running, doctor-visiting, grocery-shopping, homework-supervising, car-pooling, parent teacher conference-attending on the other side, is an ongoing battle to the death. Something always loses.

How I have longed for these free hours. I have fantasized about how I would fill them, the many ways I would use the precious, hard-won space between eight in the morning and four o’clock each day.

So it was with surprise that I felt that tugging at my heart. I have sent three other children down that first-day-of-kindergarten perp walk, where they board the bus wearing their bright new school clothes, lugging their new backpacks stuffed with new school supplies. Three times before, I have stood at our corner waving at their eager, scrubbed little faces in the window as the school bus pulled away.

What was different? Only this. For the first time, there was no toddler standing behind me, no baby in my arms. I was completely alone.

You’d think I would dance all the way home. Instead, I looked at the blue sky of a strange new world, listened to the wind blowing through the leaves, and shivered.

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