The first day of school is an event celebrated annually by most American families as if it were a delicate skirmish that hinges on properly fitted battle armor.
Not the least of which include sneakers that make a person run farther, faster and well, entirely different altogether but still give you room to grow.
It is a complicated strategy.
We begin with frenzied shopping sprees during the last weeks of summer – we buy notebooks and binders and clothes our kids will outgrow by Christmas – and then move on toward the reintroduction of age-appropriate bedtimes, usually 12 to 14 hours before the first school bell rings.
The middle is stuffed with things savvy parents will have accomplished in the wee hours of the night before: Bags packed. Clothes set out. Lunches made. Missives read. Notes written.
But we are not savvy parents. We are sloppy parents. Sloppy parents who point fingers in each other's direction. We let accusations fly as we fly about by the seat of our pants trying to gather supplies that have been strewn everywhere, but in the backpacks where they belong. ... Are the clothes even washed? Wait! I thought they were buying lunch. … What do you mean she's not on the bus list?
Eventually, the skirmish dies down and a tenuous truce is reached.
It all ends with the modern equivalent of a ticker-tape parade – the rapid-fire updating of social media networks with a vast array of cell-phone bus-stop portraits as great yellow behemoths come grinding out of their own summer slumber to the edge of our driveways where they swallow our kids up whole.
Oh sure …
Technically, the day isn't over at 8:30 in the morning when your last Primary School Cherub hauls their over-stuffed backpacks up the three steps, past a smiling driver and through a gauntlet of other similarly armored children screaming from either side of the aisle.
In fact … for you the day is really just starting.
How fast can you get to where ever it is you have to be? How much can you get done before you have to turn around and get home? Maybe … just maybe ... you can get to the Post Office AND the bank before they close. Dare to dream, dear parent. Dare to dream.
Now that summer has ended, time will move in blocks of errands rather than minutes and seconds.
But you knew that … The Handbook that came with your version of child said something about the time-space disconnect on Page Six.
Never you mind that … The kids seem to know how to slow it down. Savor it.
For weeks, they've been modeling their new clothes and planning their wardrobes. She breaks out her jewelry and carefully drapes it over outfits already assigned hangers. He starts to break in his new sneakers. Careful not to scuff the surfaces.
Neither are settled.
I always wonder what they will choose to make their first-day statements. Last year she wore a three-quarter jacket with tights over jean shorts. She looked like Cindy Lauper met Mary Tyler Moore in a dark closet.
He wore shorts, a fleece, fingerless gloves a skullcap and aviator shades. When he hoisted himself onto the bus, he looked like a tiny Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.”
I love this day. For me, it's like Halloween and Christmas all rolled into one.
At the end of the driveway my daughter twirls contentedly in her first-day regalia. The outfit has evolved during the last seven days from a stylish twinset top and black petal pushers to a navy striped tunic, last year's denim leggings, and a moth-eaten beanie cap swiped from her father's winter duds. If she is anxious about meeting a new teacher and making new friends, she doesn't let on.
My son, too, ditched his first choice of togs – a faux leather jacket and skin-tight jeans – and settled on meeting his new teacher wearing his old favorites, a comfy old t-shirt and hand-me-down basketball shorts.
“Hey, little man. Why aren't you wearing any of your new school clothes?”
“Oh … it's the first day. I just wanted to go as myself.”