I know, I’ve been gone for days. Sorry, I’ve been wrapped up in getting ready for the school year, going over and over my plans, the schedule, and the supply list in my head. I had to find desks for the boys, and where was that handwriting book? I couldn’t find those fat, triangular pencils that help Max with his wonky grip. The capitol R was missing from the phonics tray – how was Raphael supposed to practice his name without it?
I spent those last few days of summer scribbling down random lists and muttering reminders to myself, and meanwhile trying to shoehorn in final summer activities. A baseball game, a trip to a water park, and then a party for some dear friends. On the edges of my activity and obsessive planning, I was aware of all the fallout from Katrina. I intentionally turned away, thinking I would look at it later. Let me cross the finish line of the first day of school first.
The truth is, I wasn’t just dealing with the chaos of organizing and celebrating. My own feeble heart was grappling with self-pity. There’s always a small part of me that looks at the beginning of the school year like the yawning door of a jail cell. This is the part of my yearly Labor Day freakout that I don’t like to admit. Once we start school, there’s never enough time. This past summer was so busy that there already wasn’t enough time, and the thought of adding still more to my days…it left me a little breathless with panic.
I spend the end of summer tamping down the selfishness, hushing the whine in my head. Feelings aside, I know this is the best choice for my family, the choice I can best live with. And although I sometimes glance wistfully over my shoulder at the things I imagine I could do or be if I weren’t so occupied, I never never have finished a school year with regret for the time I invested in the boys’ schooling. As the years I’ve spent homeschooling accumulate, I gather more tools and capability, and I get better at this job.
But first I have to get over myself.
This morning dawned cool and grey. I stepped outside to get the newspaper, and the air felt distinctly fall-like. I glared at the sky, thinking of the unripe tomatoes in my garden, and stepped back in the house, resigning myself to the fact of fall.
The first actual day of school went fairly smoothly, although there were at least a half a dozen moments during which all three boys needed my attention at once. I finished the day with the exhausted feeling of one who is striving to get several plates spinning. I know I’ll get there, but in the meantime…geez.
But we stumbled through. All of today’s subjects were covered, albeit awkwardly. Raphael is so so ready for his simple preschool curriculum. I can tell this will be a joy with him this year. I have some real hope for the approach I’m taking with Max this year, that I’ve found ways to appeal to his strengths and work with his weaknesses. And Tre has such momentum as he tackles his subjects. I only hope I can keep up.
When the day’s school work was done, I set to other tasks. I wrestled the house back into some sort of tidiness after the long weekend. I sorted through the advanced phonics tray (and found the capitol R). And I finally turned my attention to the subject of Katrina.
I read and heard account after account of the devastation, not only by the hurricane, but by the people grating against each other in the aftermath. Displaced and stunned survivors, wandering the streets, their belongings clutched in their hands. The shock and horror and trauma that is bound to echo through these people’s families for generations.
I cried, of course. I prayed weakly. I cried again.
And I looked at my house again, this prison I was resigning myself to. How dare I? How dare I struggle to accept these precious days with my sons, luxuriating in the abundance of books and new desks that my father built them? The gutter outside my house ran with the runoff of a gentle afternoon rain, not a torrent of putrid water.
Finally, finally, I found my place again. I am not just resigned to being here, but I am grateful beyond words.
Let the school year begin.