The First Day of 6th

I dropped off the girls at Middle School at 8 am. Help, I have 3 children in Middle School! Yes, these are the years commonly known as the greatest years of a person’s life! My most vivid memory of Middle School was having to wear my brother’s hand-me-down red, white and blue Converse. So embarrassing. Every single day, total embarrassment.

I also remember making a movie, “Looking Back,” about the Depression with my homeroom. And, yes, I must mention Mr. Dennison’s counseling group where we rapped after school about our issues from a Transactional Analysis point of view. (Yes, I’ve always loved self-improvement.)

But this post wasn’t going to be about me. I was talking fondly about my girls going to Middle School. So yes, I got choked up dropping them off. (That’s about me, too! My feelings!) Especially verklempt when we were a block away and I saw they were holding hands!!! I love that!!!! (I love exclamation points too!!! They probably discourage exclamation points in Middle School!!!)

No time for sentimental good byes. The girls literally ran away from me once we hit the schoolyard. They gave me the bum’s rush. And I was left with the other bums (parents), empty-handed on the sidewalk. I said to myself, “It’s a good day to go back to church. To pray for all the teachers and students.” Besides, I had a little time to kill before work.

At the first church, “The New Pleasant Church,” on 81st, the gates were open, but the door was locked. It looked like it had been turned into a theater any way. I would’ve enjoyed going to the theater, had even that been open, but No.

So I went to the Holy Trinity Church on West 82nd. I sat by myself in there. Very vast and wide and dark. I noticed the statues of Mary. How can Mary look so calm all the time? Where do churches get that placid Mary? Where’s the Hysterical Mary? Where’s the Mary who has 3 kids in Middle School?

I asked Mary, “How do you do it? Look so calm all the time? What’s the secret?”

She didn’t say. She just smiled beatifically, the way she does. Not really helping me out. She could use some Transactional Analysis and learn, like I learned in Middle School, that it’s okay to express your feelings. “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”

Mary stood there. Candles at her feet and a fan beside her.

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

The summer days dwindled. Like the entire Upper West Side cabal of parents, I spent Labor Day at Harry’s Shoes and Staples.

At Staples, I muttered, “Sorry” to at least half a dozen people after I rammed their heels with one of my two carts.

Let traditionalists bemoan the loss of family rituals, I hold fast to a favorite — back to school shopping. Nowadays, internet-savvy, organized parents may order their school supplies on-line. Not me. I prefer the real-life bashing of plastic shopping carts and grabs for that last protractor.

I feel my year starts anew at the beginning of every fresh school year. I make resolutions — blog everyday; get the kids involved in chores; allow no TV until homework’s done; lay out clothes the night before.

The back to school outfit matters. Hayden wore a mint green collared shirt and blue checked shorts. He fussed with his hair, nearly breaking into tears over an unruly collick. Charlotte had a puffy white polka-dotted top and cut-offs. Catherine a teal, hand-me-down blouse from Deirdre and long jean shorts.

These are my fifth graders and my seventh grader. Hayden is as tall as me; the girls a perfect height for slinging an arm over their shoulders and pulling them in tight.

I wanted to hold each child’s hand as I walked Hayden to the 7:38 am bus and the girls to school. But they saw their friends and jibber jabbered the whole way.

Quickly they let me grab their cheeks and smooch them goodbye. They only rolled their eyes for a moment. Then they turned and went towards school. Their light backpacks bouced on their backs, full of empty three-ring binders and unwritten-on spiral notebooks.

I hung back and marvelled.