For some time, the transition between summer vacation and the end or start of the school year has been difficult for me. There are several reasons for this, but one will suffice as an illustration.
Three years ago, as she did every morning, my partner walked out of the house, headed to work. But normal ended that Friday afternoon, on the last day of classes in the Upper School, when she phoned me to announce that she'd found some place else to live. It was a crushing, numbing event. JT and I blundered through the next week as I gave final exams and he finished kindergarten. And then, on his first day of summer vacation, when he was 6 years old, his Mommy finally came back to his home and announced that she would no longer be living with him. That was one hell of a summer.
That fall, the return to school was unexpectedly difficult. As I unpacked the pictures I kept on my bulletin board in my classroom, I kept finding photos of a family and a life that no longer existed. When JT was asked to draw a picture of his family to share with his first grade classmates, the task found him anxious and angry. We muddled through that year of change together and felt more able to cope the next year. But that year, JT broke his leg just before the second grade got started.
We are understandably wary of the transitions to and from school.
Earlier this week, as JT played in the front yard and I sat in the rocker on the porch and read, we watched a neighbor walk down the street to meet someone coming home from the local train station. When his other Mommy lived with us and walked home from the train each evening, JT used to meet her at the corner. He loved that part of his day. And then, of course, it suddenly stopped.
He never mentioned it again. And it was more than three years ago, so I wasn't sure if he even remembered it. But as the neighbors walked by the other day, chatting about their days as families do, JT saw something familiar. He walked up on the porch, looked at me, and said, "I remember when I did that."
Before I could say anything, his eyes filled with tears and he said, "I wish I still did that." I gave him a hug and told him what I always say when these moments occur. "I am so sorry, honey." I've been saying that for three years and it never seems like enough.
We've made plans to have some extra fun this weekend. We know that the next month will sometimes catch us unawares and so we will walk through it a little wary of the changes, sometimes slightly overwhelmed by events. JT knows that we can successfully negotiate our way back to a familiar routine and find some happiness at the end of the process. I know it as well.
Together, we can do most anything. This fall, I plan to remember that very important detail.