IMG_8610   The sun glinted off his blonde hair as he waved at me from the sidewalk. He flashed a handsome smile with a dimple at each cheek. He walked backward a few steps, his long legs taking him toward the front doors of the building. He shouldered his book bag, turned and took his first steps of independence out into the world.

Okay, it was only into the WEE Center at Trussville First Baptist. He was only starting his first day of 3K, but from the way I felt he may as well have been starting his first day of college.

Please don’t cry, I mentally begged, not sure if it was meant for him or me. My husband and I pulled away from the curb and took a deep breath.

I was surprised to find that the dominant emotion was relief. I’d been anticipating this first day of school for over a month. I had determined that I would be prepared, and that this morning would be happy and peaceful to mark the first moments of the first day of his first school. I would set out his clothes the night before. I would pack his lunch in plenty of time. I would eat breakfast with him and leave early, remembering to say a prayer together. It was anything but happy and peaceful. Only an hour earlier, I was texting my husband at work: THIS IS CHAOS.

I’d dug through my son’s drawers looking for a nice shirt and shorts. I couldn’t find any that matched. I pawed through a basket of clean laundry and finally found a matching set. The shirt was wrinkled. The shorts were a little dingy. The baby was screaming. I glanced a the clock–no time to iron.

I stripped off his footie pajamas and yanked his clothes onto his skinny little body. I wet a comb and managed to get most of his cowlicks to lay down. Then I remembered the sign. You know, The Sign. The one made of chalkboard or posterboard decorated cutely with “First day of school!” neatly written across the front. The child then holds it and smiles for a great photo. I ran downstairs and rummaged through my craft supplies locating a used posterboard. I flipped it over relieved to find one side still clean. I forced myself to slow down as I wrote “First day of 3K”, then gasped when my hand smeared a glob of ink. I turned it into a crudely drawn pencil, added an apple, and grabbed the camera.

Through the viewfinder, time stopped. Framed in a small lens was my firstborn son, grown up and standing proud.

“Say cheeseburger!” I called out and snapped away. He danced. He pretended the sign was blowing away in the breeze. He balanced it on his head.

The clock caught up with us just as my husband pulled in to chauffeur us. I tossed lunch and a snack into his lunch box neglecting to draw hearts and stars on his sandwich bag. We loaded up and left.

The house is quiet now. His animated personality leaves a giant void in his absence. I miss him. But in just a few short hours I’ll pick him up and listen as he tells me all about his day.

I survived three different three-year-old meltdowns, a shrieking six-month-old and a morning in shambles. But my son arrived with a smile, greeted and embraced by his teacher. All in all, the first day of school was a brilliant success.

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