Today, a mom and dad woke up to the clamor of three kids vibrating with nerves. They eat a special breakfast designed to say goodbye to the summer. New clothes and teeth, pictures and kisses. Mom cries while kids squirm because it’s so embarrassing, mom! They will watch the retreat into the building and decide how to make sense of the quiet.
Today, a father listens to the screaming quiescence as he sips his coffee. She left with the kids this summer. Regrets woven with anger flash behind his closed eyes, but both of those are drowned out by an overwhelming sorrow. He wonders what his daughter’s backpack looks like and if it’s made the transition from barbie to boy bands. His gut churns as he thinks about his son, the one starting middle school today, and thinks about how he’s probably scared, but acting like it just doesn’t matter. His son comes by that honestly. He wonders if he will ever get another first day with them, with her.
Today, a teacher slips into her classroom to have a moment of peace before the kids arrive. She’s tired in a way that coffee can’t help as she finds herself bracing for the day. She thinks back to just after college when she walked around with the green glow of confident inexperience, when the smell of laminating got her high and her loss of sleep was due to excitement. Not pain. Not resentment. The politics of teaching, the lack of support from her principal, and the capricious demands of parents have drained her of that love. The bell rings and she sends up a quick appeal for help, please Lord, just help me love this again.
Today, she avoids Facebook. She usually can handle it. Not today. It’s been five years and the baby clothes she gleefully bought then have long been put away. Her husband gives her a sad smile, his thoughts on the baby who would have started Kindergarten today. Tonight he will hold her as tears fall, and they will pray for a chance to see the first day of school.
Today, a child walks down the hall, grateful that she picked out the shoes that don’t squeak. She thinks that if she hurries, they might not see her. She lost weight over the summer and got a new haircut, but it probably won’t matter. That group of girls will see what they choose to see, and their own insecurities paint her with a bulls eye. The bruises from last year have faded, but the blisters on her heart are just as fresh as they ever were. She decides going to her locker isn’t worth it. She decides the library isn’t such a bad place to eat lunch. She decides maybe having friends is overrated.
Today, a teacher heads into her classroom and takes a shaky breath to quiet the memories of huddling with frozen children as an unthinkable tragedy occurs just outside her door. She misses her colleagues. She still mourns the children. She can’t help it- scanning the classroom for possible hiding places and escape routes. Shaking her head and breathing in and out, she gets ready to teach and protect and love.
Today, a boy will be comforted that school has started so he can escape the smell of alcohol and the slurred shouting of a father.
Today, a girl will promise that she won’t make herself throw up. She will fail by lunchtime.
Today, a mother is terrified because this is her baby’s senior year and she doesn’t know who she will be when he leaves home.
Today I send my kids off to school.
Jesus, open my eyes to the ones who hurt! Don’t let me sit content in my own little world. Thank You that in the middle of all the chaos and pain, You are there and we are not forgotten. Change my heart to be more like You, so that those around me don’t see me anymore, they just see You.
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