The first day of school pictures flood my facebook account. Perfectly brushed ponytails and grins the size of orange peels convey a sense of independence and confidence better than words. The bottoms of our backpacks have traces of sand and salt water fishing in the bottom, now mixing with permission slips and classroom supply lists. The excitement is almost measurable in my girls and the photos of their friends as we embark on another year. Somehow these kids seem to start fresh each August, like squash and zucchini pushing through the late August dirt of a garden. No memory of the scorching July sun or the doldrums of a cold February without outdoor recess.  A sense of wonder and creativity oozes through the toothless grin of my 7 year old as she tries to spread grape jelly on to the bread for a sandwich. “Mommy they should make a spoon-knife combo because the jelly is so slippery.” I agree and explain how the spork was invented for salad bars so why not a spife for jelly? My 9 year old reminded me to sign her agenda -my daily homework- after she turned the lights out in her bedroom, and thank God because I had completely forgotten…already. It is intoxicating to watch their enthusiasm and realize a summer outdoors has created stronger, more independent, and energetic kids.

Beginnings marked with official calendar dates are easy to jump in to -even if I still believe it is un-American to start school before Labor Day. We are participating in a nostalgic tradition marked by supply shopping, perfect-first-day-outfit picking, and jitters as we go to sleep on the last night of summer vacation. I can still remember the crocheted tank top sweater I wore on the first day of 8th grade. I had found the directions in the back of my September issue of Seventeen magazine, the one that weighed over two pounds and came to the beach everyday of the August of 1985. I ripped it out and showed my Mom, the most can-do, hand-crafty person I know. As we walked to the beach with baby oil and chairs, I brought my summer reading assignments (school and magazines) and she brought her needles and cotton thread. Needless to say, I looked incredible with my Esprit turquoise capris, an aqua tank top and my freshly knit sweater, that looked somewhat like a shrunken hammock hanging over my lithe 85 pound frame. The first day outfit was probably the highlight of a school year marked by a lot of lows as I straddled the bridge between big kid and young adult, fighting authority every step of the way. I suppose that too is a ritual, growing too big for an old skin.

I wonder if I can shed some old skin during this upcoming year. The more blogs I read or people I meet, it seems we are all at a crossroads, a shifting from home and babies and chaos to self. Not in a centered, selfish way but in a more exploratory way of: what is my passion, my role, my calling- in this next phase of life. It seems we have just gotten out of the making meals for new Moms vortex and jumped right into bringing cheese straws for a funeral phase. What happened to the middle place? The one where everything is really really good and easy and happy? Did I miss it? Was I too tired or too busy or too angry to notice the nirvana next to me?

The mood in Raleigh is somewhat subdued on the beginning of this school year. There was a bad car accident involving 4 girls, seniors in high school, coming home from a weekend at the lake. Instead of matching folders and spirals to each subject, or passing notes in the back of calculus class, one of the girls is in a coma, fighting for her life. And while it seems almost cliche because this seems to happen every year, either at the beginning or the night before graduation, it breaks my heart open. At 18 I drove around all the time without a seatbelt, it wasn’t a law and the cars didn’t beep to remind you back then. I bet we even swerved off the road and over corrected a few times but still I am here, safe and sound, plodding around wondering what I am supposed to be doing with my life. What a luxury to be able to ask the question! To not have the assignment of sitting in a dark hospital room praying for the life of my teenager. To not be exploring new cancer treatments with my 9 year old or visiting a grave side wondering what my 4th grader would have worn to school had she made it past third grade. To not be starting 10th grade without a Mom who lost her battle to ovarian cancer.

It is all in the perspective isn’t it?

When people ask me where I am from, I answer in paragraph form. I moved a lot. This 8 year stint in Raleigh is the longest I have lived anywhere. So I am not sure why I keep wanting the big question -what will I be when I grow up and what will I do with my life?- to be such a short answer. I will be lots of things, some good and some bad.

What will I do with my life? Live it, because I can.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by isabelle3 on August 31, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I won’t measure this first week with new school supplies or helping to choose the perfect first-day outfit…my third child is a high school junior and more organized and competent at 17 than I was at 30…or maybe than I am now! But I will remember your words to mark the beginning of this year. Perspective is everything.

    This is my favorite blog of yours. Selfishly, I hope you decide to be a writer when you grow up!


  2. Posted by isabelle3 on August 31, 2012 at 11:00 am

    PS let me rephrase…You are a writer…(can’t determine the grown up part since I’m a lot older and still don’t think I am!) I just hope that continues to be a central part of the life that you share with others!


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