You rise early to scan emails, to get a jump on your Monday checklists, to stand at Mr. Coffee where you place the filter, measure the French Roast, pour the water – then wait. You hear them before you actually see them: shiny yellow school buses rolling by your window.
You remember your marigold-colored Number 2 pencils, neatly sharpened; your lemon and white hound’s tooth suit, some oddly simulated child’s Chanel; your sunny slicker at the ready for rainy autumn mornings. Once, back-to-school meant rushing gleefully into a carefree world, and always, on foot.
You are positioned where you have found yourself each morning for a decade, rising hours before children so you may work. Then you wake them, make their sandwiches, pack their lunches. You walk the younger halfway to the bus stop and see the elder off on his bicycle.
You are glad for safety in numbers (for the little one). You worry about traffic (for your boy on his Schwinn). And you are grateful – so grateful – when you gaze at the clock and see it is 8:30 at last.
Your children are at school, the house is silent, and the dog curls up until their boisterous re-entry. The next seven hours will go quickly, but they are entirely yours.
The weeks and months move at a crawl though your friends with husbands say “they’re growing up so fast; it’s all going too quickly.”
You wonder if Einstein understood the inexplicable mass of a single hour.
Yet you cannot imagine the eventual farewells. How do you say goodbye to your firstborn, with his freckles and inventions and endless questions? How do say goodbye to your “baby” with his head in the clouds and his companionable quiet?
When the gradual emptying of your nest begins you are torn: You discover yourself to be stunned that you made it, anxious to reclaim your life, and fearful that you’ve forgotten to impart some necessary wisdom.
Even with one in college, the mornings remain tedious when the second is still in school.
In his senior year, you have no money to cover the expense of adding him to your insurance. So you consult your agent and the local laws, you deal with his grumbling that he is “the only kid” without a license, you tell him that’s ridiculous and he has to make do with a permit. You cannot afford what you cannot afford and this is old news.
But every Monday through Friday after Mr. Coffee, the making of sandwiches, the packing of his lunch, the repeated knocking and rousting and nagging, you climb into the passenger seat of your aging Mazda and sit beside him, so he can drive to school.
“Find a ride home or take the bus,” you say. He nods as you turn the car around and head back to your computer.
Fatigue has chiseled itself into frown lines around your mouth, even when you are smiling. You do not dwell. Crow’s feet bear witness to laughter, despite the years of worry. You have no desire to turn back the clock.
Instead, you are as relieved as you were thirty-six months earlier when at last you could begin to rise when you wish, brew your French Roast, and sit at your laptop to work in the quiet.
You contemplate the latest phone call from your elder. What an interesting man he has become. You know your younger is asleep in his bed. Considerate, easy-going. In a few days, he returns to college.
You rifle through a kitchen drawer in search of yellow pencils. You listen, then watch, as the school buses roll by.