First Day of School - 8/19/2013
Can I just confess that when I glanced down at this image of this little face on my camera as the bus was pulling way, I wanted to break out of my fake, composed character and break loose running down the street after the bus screaming and wailing, “My baaaaaaby!”…
They’re in 2nd and 4th grade now, I know. They’re not babies anymore. But still.
Be still my heart… and time.
“I don’t remember our mamas being like this,” she said. My lifelong friend was right: I don’t think there is a single photograph of any of my first days at school, much less of me holding a hand-crafted sign depicting what grade I was going to begin that day. Let’s face it, my mom was doing good to keep up with actual picture day – much less turning first days of school into some unspoken milestone worth of photo opps.
“We’re living in different times,” I said. This era of social media has brought with it the incessant urge to document every moment of our lives. Camera in one hand, iPhone in the other, I snap as many photographs as I can this morning as we shuffle them to the bus stop for the grand return to school.
I take pictures of everything: lunchboxes and shoes and backpacks; close-ups of the headband in Chloe’s hair; the freckles on Parker’s smiling face. These are the details I am afraid of forgetting. The ones that I fear will somehow escape my memory if I don’t capture them all in photographs.
But the truth is, I was like this before the evolution of social media. Chloe has exactly a half dozen scrapbooks of her first year of life. I carefully documented almost every moment that first year. In hindsight, I hardly remember it – but when I look at those photographs, I cherish that time. Each of those moments. I live and relive them.
There’s a lot of chatter these days about this idea of “living in the moment”. But I think it’s too painful a prospect. Our human hearts can only handle so much painful awareness on a daily basis.
And so it is, on the first day back to school, the feed of my social media reads like the book of [Mama] Lamentations. This day is one that, amidst the hurry and scurry of our lives, we pause and we take it all in. We stand face-to-face with the reality of how fast our children are growing, how fast the time is passing and how absolutely, utterly helpless we are to stop it, or at least slow it.
It doesn’t seemingly get easier as the years pass, but harder – and faster. The camera flashes and their whole lives flash before my eyes. They step onto the bus and each year, one step further into their independence…
The bus pulls away and I snap this photo, albeit blurry, of Parker’s little face in the window, hand pressed against the glass. I smile and wave – but only on the outside. Inside, I’ve broken loose into full stride running alongside the bus like a madwoman. My lips are mouthing, “Bye! Have a great day.” But my heart – oh, my heart is screaming after the bus, “My baaaaby! Come back!”
My birthday conveniently coincides with the beginning of school each year – a proverbial double-whammy of forced reflection and painful realization. It’s all happening too fast, this quandry of time.
My heart is racing along with the second hand on my watch and He whispers, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
And I realize, in those moments of anxiety, I’m counting all wrong. Again. Oh, Lord, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Teach us to count not the time gone by, the moments missed, but your blessings that fill each and every one.