Grade Three

I try to remember grade three. I try to remember exactly how I felt and what I was thinking, but I can’t. I can remember sensory details if I really think about it, and not all at once. In an exercise that takes at least a week, certain things come back to me. The smooth texture of my desk’s surface, and the pencil shavings scattered along the desk’s inside ledge, hiding under the 30cm yellow ruler that hadn’t yet been snapped in half.

I can remember the heavy cotton of the grey jumper I wore on the first day, the bright orange of my Garfield lunch box, and the potential for greatness in a new pair of blue Velcro sneakers, Velcro also being new and full of potential for greatness.

What I would like to recall is how quickly my heart must have been beating as I boarded a school bus for the first time, to be taken away from all that was familiar and true for me. What I would like to recall is the impression I had of my new classmates, each and every one of us having boarded a bus to be taken away from all that was familiar, and dropped off at a new school in a new area where our very presence was an affront to those that had only to walk to class each day.

The reason I have been trying to remember all of these things is simple: my older daughter has just started grade three, and I want her to be ok.

She does not board a bus to a new school, nor is she an unwanted interloper among the locals, but she has started grade three in a split three-four, and this has necessitated a move, one year early, from the primary area to the intermediate area, where the grade fours reside.

For my daughter, this is a windfall. She believes she has won the jackpot – the purse being literal and figurative entrance to a world she had previously been barred access to. She gets to traverse the territory still off-limits to most of her peers, and though access remains open to the primary stomping grounds, she rarely goes back.

And she gets a locker, like all intermediate and senior students. She gets a locker that we have already tricked out with a mirror and a white board and some magnets, so she can hang pictures of kittens and One Direction.

Her excitement is thrilling and comforting and I try hard to concentrate on the fact that my daughter is happy and clever and independent, and try not to concentrate on the fact that my daughter is entering the school through the big kid doors and has a locker and is independent.

So I try to force recollections of myself in grade three to come back into focus; try to conjure the level of courage versus the level of trepidation, try to gauge how long it took for me to be ok at age eight in a new situation. This is a laughable exercise but to attempt it is my right as her mother.

As if I could unlock the secret to understanding my daughter’s needs. As if they ever matched my own.
What I do remember of my own experience is that I entered the doors of the school by myself. And though my desire is to turn the corner of the building and watch her glide safely in, I have to allow my daughter to do the same. When she tells me that it took her four tries to get the new lock on her new locker open, I supportively nod and tell her she’ll get the hang of it. When she tells me that she has left the primary playground, and her old pals behind, preferring the bigger space and bigger kids in the intermediate are, I ignore the churning in my stomach and ask her what kinds of games she plays in this brave new world that I’m not sure she’s ready for.

And she grins, wide smile full of baby teeth not yet lost, and says that what they like to play best is Barnyard Kittens, and the knots in my stomach unfurl, at least for now.  



In with the new

I love this time of year in my adopted hometown. The fields stretch out over the acres like golden, rippling oceans; the fruit hangs heavy on the trees, begging me to turn my kitchen into an oasis of sweet and sticky baked goods, and the evenings, still dominated by the insects’ songs, are just cool enough to feel the need to wrap yourself up in a cozy sweater.

There is still romance in the rural life for me, and this, our third autumn here, is proving to be just as restorative, invigorating and salubrious as our first.

A new school year has begun, and for the first time ever, I will be at home while both of my kids are in school. For my kids, this means long days away and the need for routine, security and some decompression once they come home. I feel blessed and privileged to be able to offer them that.  

For me, this new schedule means entire days unstructured but dedicated to writing, days I can spend doing exactly what I’ve dreamed of doing for many years.

The realization of our entire move to the cornfield is coming to fruition, and much like the children waiting for the bell to ring on the first day of school, I am tingling with anticipation, excitement and a certain amount of anxiety. While the last two years, with my youngest daughter home, gave me a huge sense of purpose, not to mention structure, we knew that time was temporary. We knew that eventually, my little one would be going to school full-time and that once again, life would change drastically.

And now that time is here, and we are all adjusting. My older daughter is just about to enter the tween years, and grasps at any opportunity to prove her independence. Reluctantly, but with great pride, I move out of her way so she can reach, unimpeded.

My younger daughter walks the school halls daily now, thriving but, I can see, contending with the desire to be a ‘big girl,’ versus the desire to still lay down for an afternoon nap.

And my husband is adjusting to having me dedicate all of my time now to the ‘work’ part of being a work-at-home mum, the quiet of our separate focus replacing the summer’s boisterous noise in our shared spaces. We startle each other when we meet in the kitchen, but enjoy the moment or two of uninterrupted conversation as we sip our coffee that I now get to drink while it is still hot.

And like the kids now off to school, the excitement of newness will soon dissolve into a flurry of due dates and responsibilities; of small stresses and large ideas; of chances taken and chances missed, and of potential for disappointment tempered by potential for tremendous joy.

I’ll watch as the leaves change and float to the cool ground, but I won’t lament the summer’s end or the growing of children no longer mine during the day. I’ll take my cue from the kids in the schoolyard, and we’ll pile the leaves as high as we can. We’ll hold hands, and we’ll let the leaves muffle our shrieks of joy as we jump right in.