Thursday Drive is a blog where the writing makes you catch your breath. Jennifer's natural gift and the lyrical quality of her words transports you. Someday...oh, someday...we will meet for whiskey and a long drive...ogling cowboys...Dive in and relish! Thursday Drive is my guest poster for today...
The smell of school clings to them, and I inhale it. The smell of pencils and crayons and textbooks, of the cafeteria and the sweat of them from their time on the hot playground. We dump the sand from their shoes and put them away for the next morning. A round of snacks follows, and then we talk about the day.
One at a time, each of my two children climbs into my lap. I ask them three questions every time (though those questions turn into more): What was the best part of your day? The worst part? The funniest part?
Those queries take us further than How was your day? ever could. They carry us past the one word answers of Fine and Okay, and into the heart of what happens to them when they step out of the car and into the swirl of backpacks and the sounds of "Love you, too!" every morning.
My son is in fourth grade now, and my girl is the second. For most of the year, they spend the better part of the day in a world that is their own. Among their own friends, facing the bullies, learning to function in a group--the last, a thing I can't teach them well enough at home. There, they decide that they love math or English or P.E. or music the best. They navigate the cafeteria line, and learn to play the violin in the school's Suzuki program. Whole dramas unfold without me there to moderate. If they fall, someone else is there to apply the salve of bandage and words.
They step out of my car and into the world. I let go.
The day will come when, more often than not, they will share their stories with me by phone or email, and it's not likely to happen every day. Odds are, they will live far away from me, and maybe I will hear the just the highest or lowest of their stories.
But, at this age, they tell me they want to live with me forever, that even if they go away to college, they will come back home for good. To that, I smile (and think, "Oh, heck no!"). But then I tell them they can live at home as long as they like, but that I'm sure they will each want to find a place of their own when they're old enough. It's what they need to hear, at age seven and nine, when they are far from the edge of the nest and need feel no danger of being pushed out of it.
If I do enough things right, someday my girl will call me to say, "The funniest thing happened today." Or my boy will email me to ask, "I've had the worst day. Can I get your advice?"
And when I'm lucky enough to have them with me, sitting beside me or across a table, the scents that are familiar now will have left them. They will no longer smell of pencils or markers, or need me to shake the sand from their shoes. They will have collected pieces of the world on their own, and what they have found will be impossible to shake loose. They will know as much as I do about the world, and maybe more.
But when I hug them goodbye and send them back out into that world, I will close my eyes and breathe in, for that moment that they are close to me. They won't even notice, or they will. But maybe they will remember it, this little thing we do now.
And there's a chance--a good one, I hope--they will remember that it was one of the best parts of their day.
It is certainly one of mine.