Firsts, lasts … sigh

    It was the first day of my younger daughter’s last year of high school. While it does not have the emotional vice grip it could have, there is a strong tug just the same. It’s probably because I’m no neophyte in this arena.

    Today was a first and a last.

    It seems a lot of those having been filling up my dance card lately.

    It was the first day of my younger daughter’s last year of high school. While it does not have the emotional vice grip it could have, there is a strong tug just the same. It’s probably because I’m no neophyte in this arena. The timeline of school first days is one that parents know all too well because it swings around each year for at least 12 consecutive years (not counting kindergarten and pre-school.)

    Measuring the alpha and omega moments tucked into everyday life is a comfortable yardstick for me; stopping to measure where my girls are and what it means to me suits my nature.

    Taking the first day of school photos is non-negotiable in this house. Fortunately there is little to no push back on it, but the scout motto of “Be Prepared” comes into play as I wait, vigilant and camera-ready by the door. I savor being appeased. The definitive moment came in 2009 when my oldest and her freshman year college roommate took pictures of each other on their first day of classes and sent them to me.

    What an unexpected bonus click of the shutter!

    I love thinking about that scene being replayed across the world as students head off to their new school years. It is strangely comforting. Parents, regardless of culture, economics, faith, all share in this small yet solid moment. It’s like a moon rock in which the size has nothing to do with its incredible density.

    That’s what I felt this morning — dense in the heart.

    These are marker moments — simple milestones. I understand that what happens during those 179 other days in the classroom is more important and goes mostly undocumented at home as kids mature, but that first day — with its scrubbed optimism and perhaps a specially chosen apparel item — is when things seem possible. It grabs me in a fit of achy, breaky love.

    The humorous part is that, as a kid, I moaned and groaned about the first day of school. It could have been that we usually vacationed at the shore right before school began, so I felt bereft over seeing summer in the rear view mirror. It is more likely that I have always had awful transitioning skills.

    It seems “firsts” have a powerful blast when they hit. Baby books over-embellish those many events — first tooth, first steps, first word, first haircut — the list goes on. Yet, the “lasts” are often unplanned. We can’t really plan for the last book we’ll read to our child or the last time they’ll ride their bike. “Lasts” sneak up on us in reflection. Instead of blowing us away, they breeze by daring us to notice them.

    Well, not today. Today was the last first day of high school. It was pouring rain. The gods toyed with my emotions but I made sure I looked them squarely in the eyes and marked the moment.

    Click.

    Diane Weltman is a summer 2012 WHYY newsroom intern. This essay was originally published on August 27 on the site A Subject for Consideration.

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