Yesterday, I walked by my neighborhood school as I listened to Morning Prayer on my phone. It was the first day of classes in the Shawnee Mission district, and I happened by East Antioch school during “the parade”: Tiny people, kindergartners and first graders, bearing backpacks that seemed big enough to tip them over, strode purposefully with moms and dads and siblings down the sidewalk. The tiny ones looked confident and strong; I’m not sure what I’d say about the moms and dads. I remember that strange mix of anxiety, sadness, and joy on the first day of school.
Fifteen years ago, Ann and I walked to our neighborhood school, Robert E. Lee Elementary in Austin, Texas. It was Kathryn’s first day of kindergarten. She must have had one of those overwhelming backpacks, but what my memory conflates from hundreds of other walks to school that year is me pushing Kathryn and Daniel in a double stroller – she was small enough she still fit in, while Daniel at 3 just loved the ride. She was so ready for school, I couldn’t feel sad. For both kids, the times of these transitions have always just seemed right.
Tomorrow, Ann and I will drive with Kathryn to Kirksville, to move her into her first house and her last year in college. Granted, it’s a nine-month rental, but it’s still the next good step in breaking away. This is a different move than the other times we’ve taken her to college: She’s refinished some furniture for her new bedroom; she’s packed pots and pans, measuring cups, and dishes; the most exciting pre-college purchase this time was a stock pot (“Soup!” she squealed). She’s nesting.
One week from today, Ann and I will drive with Dan to Manhattan, Kansas, for his first semester at K-State. Again, the time’s so right for him that I don’t feel sad. He’s excited about his classes, not to mention his freedom. He has a good network of friends already in place, and Canterbury House (Episcopal Campus Ministry) will be a second home and great source of free food. And yet, as we set out on the road next week, I feel sure that, in my mind, I’ll be driving the double stroller instead of the van, running fast up and down the sidewalk’s little hills at each driveway, relishing the kids’ squeals of delight.