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The first day of school — a mother’s lament

The kids are out of the house after the long summer break so why am I not ecstatic?

It is 7:15 a.m.

Her bag is packed with wrapped books, crisp papers, sharpened pencils all lined up beautifully in the pink case she’s caressed countless times these past few weeks, and a small little meal she promised she’ll try to eat. Her deepest desire is to keep everything in pristine, organized condition.

“This year, I’ll be neat.”

His bag is as big as him. It hangs down to his knees, even as he bends forward to redistribute the weight on his tiny, narrow shoulders. His books fill his arms and my arms. He’s left space for the bits and pieces he’ll stuff deep into the corners of his bag; a rock, a screw, a small fracture of something he thinks can be useful.

“This year, I’ll try to do my homework.” 

She eats fruit and holds her abdomen as her fears reject sustenance.

He tells me he’ll eat breakfast tomorrow.

There is an urgency I see in both sets of eyes. Flashing behind long lashes are thoughts not yet formulated, illusive challenges and so much misunderstanding.

It is 7:30 a.m.

They want to go so they can “catch” good seats.

I open the new box. She holds out her hand, and I drop the little blue pill into her palm.

He watches her throw back her head with a grimace.

“Is it gross? Is the new pill worser?”

She shrugs.

“It tastes disgusting. Ich.”

She sticks out her tongue and he laughs because there is a streak of blue right down the center and I remember they didn’t brush their teeth so they run to the sink with their bags still on and we run out the door and then we take them to their classrooms and we arrange their books and we embarrass them with a kiss and they don’t let us take pictures and then I go home and sit down and look around and the world stops spinning.

It is 7:59 a.m.

I am on the couch in my empty house. The tears streaking my cheeks with yesterday’s mascara won’t seem to stop. I cry for my little girl and her little body absorbing something designed to keep her still. I cry for my little boy and his big, brave eyes where he hides the anxiety that causes him to shrink in the face of uncertainty.

I don’t know if this trial week with a new kind of pill is the right thing to do.

I don’t know if his new teacher will see him or if he’ll fall into the spaces between again.

I don’t know anything except that no one could love them more than me.

It is 10:17 a.m.

My heart doesn’t beat when I am afraid.

The door will open soon, and I will ask them about their day. I don’t know if she will be hungry, but I will make her favorite lunch, just in case. He will want to watch TV and I will reinstate the policy. Maybe we’ll make a chart together. We’ll pencil in their schedules, and I’ll draw each task they can finish for screen time. I’ll ask her how she feels and I will watch her come down so that I can catch her.

They will go to bed with less anxiety tonight.

I will go to bed with more.

It is 10:34 a.m. on the first day of school, and a piece of me fades into the corner in third grade while another piece is subdued in sixth, and I am on my couch trying hard to breathe.

About the Author
Bracha Goldstein is a work in progress. She writes to free her soul and to share her ideas with the world.
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