Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to School

Every September since 1977, the Tuesday after Labour Day has always meant one thing: back to school! A new year, with new clothes and new pencils and a new grade and new books to read (remember, I’m a lifelong nerd) and maybe new friends and new beginnings. It’s all fresh and new and exciting and soooo much more meaningful than January 1st as a ‘new year’ to mark as a special occasion. I have never missed a back-to-school until right now. I went to the mall on Saturday, and instead of stocking up on my favorite pens and some new binders and paperclips, I bought a load of fall-weight baby outfits.

Wow. Feels weird – school and the scholastic year have always really defined the rhythms of my life and are a big part of my self-image. Now, as I watch my neighbourhood welcome back the hordes of frosh and upperclassmen to the local universities, and as troops of grade-schoolers march past the house at 8:30 and 3:30, I feel a little left out.

For now, my life has a new, different rhythm, of more- or less-full boobies and baby tummies, of two-hour periods of wakefulness and drowsiness signs, of bedtime rituals and midnight changes, of those wonderful early morning and midafternoon periods of baby good cheer, when we play and laugh and I get all those gummy little smiles, of portioned out mommy-breaks and daddy-breaks. It’s a rhythm that’s at once slower but more intense, more in-the-home rather than out-in-the-world. It moves in days rather than seasons. It’s full of learning and changes that surprise me – when did she stop singing her satisfaction while eating? When did she start wiggling her whole body to say hello with a smile in the morning? When did all these clothes get too small? But – a September without new classes, new faces!

There was a time in my life, probably not so long ago, actually, when this change would have really thrown me for a loop: I am very much a creature of habit, and this is a 29 year habit, after all. But you know what? I’m okay with this. Miss Baby is such a wonder and a joy, and my sense that this time with her is fleeting is very acute. Back to school will always be there, for both of us, but our time to be so engrossed in each other is going to run its course, probably faster than I can imagine right now. So as the school bells ring and new shoes walk new paths to new classrooms and challenges, Miss Baby and I will stroll the neighbourhood to watch the wonder of the changing leaves. Maybe we’ll wave at some buses and give some money to the Shine-a-rama volunteers in face paint.

Whaddaya mean I'm getting on one of those buses someday?

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