9/1/16

The kids are OK, but what about me?

She walked across the middle school campus in tight jeans, never glancing back at the car, her long golden locks winking at me as if they had a secret. I can't believe she's in 7th grade. I-can't-believe-it. I thought I was ready in the lingering weeks of summer, her hormones pushing every limit with me and her little sis, Ana. Her emotions ebbing between cheerfulness and brooding irritation. "This is good," I thought, "She's growing up, she's ready for a change." We shopped for new school clothes and cleaned out her closet. I even helped her shave!
   With pit and leg hair removed, I figured we were ready for junior high. And then she went. And she walked in her tight jeans with her long flowing hair across that campus where she knew not a soul and disappeared into the crowd. I think my heart stretched completely out of my chest and as far across that campus as it could before it snapped back inside of me, shredded and tired. She's only 11. She's just a little girl. She still rides in the back seat of my car! Some of those girls had full faces of makeup and the curves to go with it. They looked dewy and composed, a stark contrast to the bedraggled, crepey skinned mother in the driver's seat. It looked as though with every year closer to womanhood the child got, the closer to death the mother became...eventually ending with one perfectly complete and womanly 16 year old and then the mother a little, shriveled waste.
    I dropped Ana off at her elementary school for 4th grade. She was all set. I'd done my utmost finagling to ensure the perfect year of fourth grade for her. She had the dynamic teacher and the perfect chemistry of classmates to boot. She was going to have a superstar year. And she didn't look back as she bounced across campus to her friends.
    Minutes after pulling away from the elementary school I began to orchestrate my day around the middle school campus, which isn't easy to do since it's in the neighboring town from our house. Should I walk the dog on the trails to the north or the south of campus? Or should I just sit in the parking lot, stalker style, during lunch? Eventually, I found myself winding my way up a trail to the nearest hilltop with the dog, craning my neck from the lookout at her new campus in hopes that I could catch a glimpse. Is she ok? Did she find someone to eat lunch with? Is she feeling uncool? Is someone jealous of her tight jeans and is now whispering behind her back? UGH. I can't see ANYTHING from here!
    The minutes of the day dragged on and my heart followed in tortured silence. Finally it was time to start the pickup process. At the elementary school I was greeted with the happiest version of Ana. She chatted on about the Zoomba breaks her teacher took and the fact that she played the guitar and they learned a song! "This teacher is right up your alley," I said as I secretly congratulated my strategic antics for orchestrating the whole thing. We pulled into the middle school parking lot 20 minutes early and parked. I felt anxious and scared and reminded myself that hugs are always best for bad days. "I will listen and support. I will encourage. I will cheer her up," I repeated to myself like a mantra of help in the calm before what I feared to be a storm of loneliness. I mean, ALL of her friends went to the other junior high. And they were all really good kids who she'd been friends with since kindergarten. This was a disaster, how could I send her to this school all by herself? I chewed on my nail and thought about how I might be able to transfer her to the other campus by next week. Sparkling golden locks caught my eye as she floated along the crosswalk. Here she comes...."Hi Mommy!" she chirped and piled into the back seat of the car. That's right, the back seat. I spun around in my seat, the engine off, "Sooo? How was it?" I managed, trying to sound positive. Her face broke into a glowing smile, I mean, she was beaming with joy?!??
   "It was really good!" she smiled.
   "Really?" I smiled back in confusion, "Tell me all the details and start from the beginning!"
 So, the kids are ok. They are ok. But what about me? So why does my heart feels like it's been shredded into criss-cut fries?

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