Today is a first for 75% of our family. J-M starts his job, girls start high school… I was scheduled to start work, but with a last minute change of mind, I decided tomorrow would be better. So I would be available should the girls need me. They do still need me, you know.
Yesterday the family talked about how today would go. These kinds of plans and negotiations set the bar for the rest of the year, right? We think grandly and optimistically at the beginning of the school year, with our new notebooks, outfits, and lease on life. Start right. We discussed the details of who would use the shower and when, what time we would leave, how Daddy would drop us all off, and then I would show the girls how to take the bus home.
This morning, we get out the door well. Even have time for a first day snapshot with a natural smile. We drive the girls to school and they give us covert kisses goodbye. They are early and J-M and I watch them walk together, slowly, to the door. They seem to be the only blondes in the whole school. Their golden locks flow loosely. Their back-to-school clothes seem irrelevant when the majority of girls are wearing long skirts and head scarves. I cry the same as I did when they first started Kindergarten. Those darn allergies hit hardest on the first day.
I wait at Tim Horton’s across the road from the high school while the girls pick up their timetables. No classes today. It’s so smart to do it this way, I think as I wait for them on Facebook. How I’ve been missing Facebook. Imma like every single back-to-school pic in my news feed. This is an exciting cultural event! The province rejoices at the first day of school. And the parents who post accompany the pictures with statements of shock and wonder at how our kids have grown. On the first day, we can no longer deny that another year had passed, our growing, lanky kids mark the passing of time. I see no pictures of girls in head scarves and long skirts.
Shortly after logging in, I get a call from Fifi, “You forgot to give us money.” $60 ea. is due for registration, for photocopy expenses, lockers, etc. even though I don’t know what the ‘etc.’ is. I suddenly remember how the Guidance Counsellor told me not to forget the money on the first day. When my kids tell me I’ve forgotten something – such as packing them a sweater, tooth fairy money under their pillow, picking them up after school – I deduct imaginary Mommy points from perfect. It’s a default I fight against continually. This time, I tell myself, I’ve had a lot on my mind, having JUST moved. Also, $60 is an unreasonable amount for ‘etc.’, of course I forgot it. I’m closer to perfect than they think.
Being without a car, I walk to the closest ATM and make it to the school 15 minutes later. The bright blonde girls wait somewhat patiently outside the school. They take the money and I tell them I’ll wait for them here, in the end-of-summer sunshine. There is a large group of kids waiting outside for their parents, all of whom have forgotten the registration fee.
It’s hot and I wonder how stifling it must be for those in the head scarves and sweatshirts and long skirts. They don’t seem to mind… or at least don’t complain. I try to make eye contact with the points-from-perfect mothers, who come and go twice. Impossible. At least today, the first day. I wonder how one makes friends when one can’t make eye contact. I’ll have to try a different strategy.
The girls come out with their neon pink timetables and share the stern warning they’ve been given not to lose them. Neon is the new gold. We cross the street to wait for the bus.
I learn and instruct at the same time. J-M and I used to live in Toronto when we were first married. I took transit every day to work in those days, but I’m not too familiar with this area yet. Now – awesome – they have a TTC app, we can tell when the next bus is coming and what route to take. I show both the girls but only Mallory pays attention. I show them how to get a transfer, how to see what the next stop is, how to pull the cord to get the bus to stop, which side of the road to catch the bus.
Sophia is looking around the bus at all the different people, a young black mother with her baby who is rocking a ball cap with WORD written across the front. We ponder how some kids are born cool. Another lady is headed to the airport wearing her Air Canada uniform. An elderly man in dreads. Young ladies with head scarves and long skirts talking to young ladies without.
“Sophia, are you paying attention?”
“I don’t need to, Mallory is.”
We get home in 20 minutes, but it seems faster. J-M drives into the driveway just as we arrive. “Hey,” Mallory says, holding up her bus transfer, “It says, ‘Thank you for riding the Rocket!’” We excitedly tell him about our uneventful morning that seemed so very eventful, which is exactly what you hope from a first day.