The First Day

For some of you the beginning of the school year, or the “first day” is always in January, for others it is August or September. Our first day, was today. The beginning of a new year. New teachers, fresh classes, bare walls and new lockers. This morning we turned left instead of right, we waved across the hallway to last years teachers whilst searching for our new ones, we scanned class lists looking for familiar names, and made introductions. A fresh start.

Although one thing stayed the same.

Without fail each year I deposit my children will their new teachers, smile cheerily as I see old friends, and then make my way to the car so I can sob for a good five minutes.

And then I’m fine. Every year.

For the little travellers the first day signals the beginning, for myself it’s the end. The end of the holidays, which means the end of them all being together as one. The end of me reclaiming my children and having them all to myself. It’s time to hand them back again. It’s time to share.

Years ago, a wise old expat told me that she always felt her children regrouped each time they moved location. I feel the same way about our summer breaks. “There’s a small window of time where they’re friendless and have to rely on each other. A window where your brother becomes your best friend through necessity. When you’re new in town, sometimes a sibling is the only option if you want to kick the ball or play a game of cards”.

For the past 12 weeks the travelers have all slept in the same room. I’ve listened to them tell stories, make cubbies out of blankets and giggle at each others “pull my finger” repertoire. We’ve travelled everywhere together and as the days have passed they’ve become tighter, stronger, there are now more stories, more memories. Today they returned to friends, schedules and parties. Their own lives.

Last night I listened to the boys marvel over how enormous their beds are “these are so much better than the bunks at the beach house” said one “yeah, but we don’t have the girls in our room anymore” said the other with a sigh. They had obviously both forgotten the “no girls allowed” sign that was made last year.

I came downstairs this morning to find the first little traveler had sorted through the school supplies and was making up bags for everyone to take. The second little traveler was speaking to the fourth about being in the lower elementary by himself “I’ll come and see you at lunch if you like”. “He’ll be fine” said the second, “but I’ll come too if you want” and then he remembered”but I won’t be able to stay because I’ll be with my friends.”

“We all will” said the second.

As we made our way in through the double doors of the school, the first traveller gave us a wave and disappeared. I walked into the classroom with the fourth, one solitary tear rolled down his cheek “don’t go” he said, “I’ll come back in ten minutes and check on you” I knew I had to keep walking, if not, he’d be being home schooled for the rest of the year. I walked with the third, his hand quickly leaving mine the moment he spotted a friend, and then I raced with the second to make it to her class in time, her face beaming as she entered the room of the teacher she’d hoped for all summer.

And then, just like that, I was alone.

I stood in the hallway, just outside the fourth travelers door, watching while he sat on the carpet listening to his new teacher. I watched him giggle with a new friend when she said something funny. He was fine, he didn’t need me. He was surrounded by others his own age, he was right where he was meant to be.

They all were.

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