The difference a year makes is a tragic but beautiful thing, I think to myself, as I lay here in this bed, with you asleep to my right and your sister to my left.
In many ways, this is quite a typical scene, and quite ordinary, your head at my feet and your sister nestled into the crook of my arm, tendrils of her hair drenched in sweat, both her own and mine.
It’s the earliest moment of the morning, with the sun peeking over the horizon and into my physical space, and it’s a time that I love. When the rest of the house rests, still. When the rest of the house is quiet.
Though the crickets still chirp and the windows are still open, the cool breeze flooding the room reminds me gently of the change in season. Reminds me it’s September, and that my days of sleeping in t-shirts and underwear are numbered, as goosebumps have made their mark down my legs.
And my butterflies in the pit of my belly remind me summer vacation closes right now, today, and I look down at you, on this, your big school day.
And though I feel satisfied that you are happy with the amount of dips in the lake, the amount of wave jumping and dandelion picking, the amount of grandparent visits and sunset watching on the deck, I always wish for just a little bit more of the season that was.
I always find it hard to let go.
But today things change for us in a big way. And I have to be ready. For you, and for us. I have to be prepared to support you in whatever comes- it’s my biggest job.
And it’s a heavy responsibility, knowing all too well how the next few hours could play out, based on last year’s reaction. It could take everything out of me again. It could leave me breathless.
So I suck in the last of the summer air’s warmth, here in our cozy nest. Your legs twitching, I know you’re sailing away in your sleepy place, in your blue striped firetruck pyjamas we bought you last year.
And I’m then reminded of this exact time a year ago, when, to your dismay, you were about to start preschool. In a last ditch effort to bribe you into happiness, we suggested these new pyjamas, and you were thrilled to learn of their gimmick- that they glowed in the dark. You loved these pyjamas. And you used to wear them in the daytime, too, saying you were charging their glow for the night to come.
That really impressed you at the time.
But last night you only put them on because I’ve got too much laundry to do and they were the only matching pair you could find. This morning, as I watch over you sleeping, I see that you’re still that same mess of blonde hair, face down on the bed, with dirty feet and unclipped nails, much the same as you were the day we got them. But also, your legs are adorned in bruises, which I wouldn’t have noticed if your tanned legs weren’t sticking out a foot past the pyjama bottoms as far as they do now.
Last year at this time, I wouldn’t have noticed the marker on your wrist or the tattoo on your belly, but this year I do, given how much your torso, too, has lengthened.
And yet on this morning before your first day of real school, you’re still very much a small child taking up such little real estate on the foot of this bed, wheezing on the in breath and drooling on the out.
This year at this time, unlike last, there are two grown children in my bed, mirror images of each other with one arm sprawled across their side, casting small shadows on the wooden floor in the most southernly corner of our home.
On your dresser your chosen clothes await- a plain orange cotton dress and old tennis socks. You’ve requested a simple ponytail, and your light-up shoes. They are ready and waiting to meet you, as surely as the sun on this September morning.
And I’m scared for you. I know what change can do to you. I know how it can rock you, the way it does me.
But sitting in this bed looking at you, I’m hopeful for you that you can find the day’s bright spots. That you can take comfort in the parts that are familiar, and be brave for the parts unknown.
Because if there’s anything I know about you, it’s that you have the ability to surprise me. Just the same way the cool breeze surprises me this morning, and the way the changing colours of the trees have started greeting me to my dismay on my recent morning drives. Each year the seasons do this, four times a year, and yet each year I am surprised in their transition.
Last night we rode out the last minutes of vacation on the deck and we watched the sun go down. I brought up the names of your classmates from last year and you corrected my pronunciations. I asked if you’d like your hair braided again this year but you opted for a simple ponytail. I inquired if you had any more questions, and you said no, so I pulled you in for a hug.
You recoiled, and you asked why I always have bad breath. Skipping to the garden you pulled up some mint and offered it to me, and I sat in silence, just chewing and looking at you. And I wondered how we got to this point.
Like I wonder now, this morning, how it came to be that I have a kid who is school aged.
For it’s only in these rare moments of stolen silence that I get my clarity.
It’s only here that I’m reminded to pay attention.
You’re now more comfortable in your skin this year compared to last.
You’re learning to cope, but that also means you’re pulling away from me. And that’s going to happen whether I take notice or not, just like the leaves and the trees and the air, in their time, will mature and change, too.
A season or a year, it’s a constant evolution. So I have to be ready for it, and I have to let go of what was.
Change is here and I’m awake for it, here and now. I’m present for you, on this, your big day.
And it’s both tragic but beautiful.