When You Send Your Children to the Moon

And I had a dream it blows the autumn through my head
It felt like the first day of school
But I was going to the moon instead
And I walked down the hall
With the notebooks they got for me
My dad led me through the house
My mom drank instant coffee
And I knew that I would crash
But I didn’t want to tell them
There are just some moments when your family makes sense
They just make sense

So I raised up my arms and my mother put the sweater on
We walked out on the dark and frozen grass
The end of the summer
It’s the end of the summer
When you send your children to the moon

From “The End of the Summer” by Dar Williams

When we started seeing “Back to School” signs in store windows sometime in the middle of July, Noah was indignant. In late July, when we mentioned to him that he’d be going back to school soon, he protested that four weeks was “a long time.” Then the weeks dwindled to days. On Saturday morning, while we were still at the beach, Beth reminded him that school started in two days. He was shocked. It wasn’t until yesterday morning that he truly seemed to get it. Beth was urging him to finish his breakfast and get a move on and she asked if he knew why he needed to focus. She meant for him to say that he had a swim lesson, but he said, “Because school starts tomorrow?” I guess we had to be at home for it to sink in. It might have also helped that we drove over to his school Saturday evening to check the class lists that were supposed to be posted on the doors. They weren’t! We’d missed the Open House because we were out of town, so Beth had to find out what classes he was in by posting to the PTA listserv. Luckily, the moms of one of his nursery school classmates and one of his kindergarten classmates had noticed what classes Noah was in and responded to Beth’s post. We also learned from one of these moms, that Ms. C, Noah’s morning teacher, wants parents to write her a letter about their children’s likes and dislikes and effective strategies for working with them. It seems like a good sign that she wants input about her pupils as individuals. In the afternoon, for the Spanish portion of his day, he has Señorita M, his summer kindergarten teacher. We didn’t get to know her very well, due to the short session, but she’s at least a familiar face to Noah and he never got in trouble in her class. She’s also very young (about twelve, Beth estimated last summer) which could translate to flexibility. Here’s hoping.

When I was a kid, my mom always took my sister and me out for ice cream on the last night of summer vacation. It’s a tradition I’d kept up with Noah the night before he started nursery school and kindergarten. This year, however, he wanted an ice cream cake from the supermarket instead. He remembered that last year we threw a Back to School party for the handful of his nursery school classmates who’d be attending his elementary school. He especially remembered the sheet cake we bought for the occasion and now in his mind, the idea going back to school is cemented with cake. I would have preferred the ceremony of going out for ice cream to eating cake at home, but I didn’t really want to try to dictate his cherished childhood memories to him, so we had the cake.

We almost didn’t eat it, though, because at dinnertime, Noah was camped out in the bathroom, waiting to throw up. He’s had a lot of mysterious stomachaches in the past year or so, says he’s going to throw up and almost never does. The last one was Saturday morning as we were trying to leave Rehoboth. They don’t always come at such obvious times, but I think they might be stress-related. I had a nervous stomach as a kid and the problem peaked in sixth grade, the year after my parents split up. A little while later, he made a full recovery, ate his dinner and his cake.

On waking this morning, Noah asked how long he has to turn in his summer homework. (The answer is until the end of the second week of school.) Now, two hours before the beginning of the school year he had decided that he does want to complete enough of the assignments to attend the party. Currently he has completed eleven reading assignments, seven of them in the past week. This earns him a bookmark and a certificate. He needs to finish twenty-one to go to the party. I told him we’d see what we could do, but his regular homework came first.

At 8:25, June and I watched from the porch as Beth and Noah waited at the bus stop. At one point he was heaving his backpack, overloaded with the required pencils, tissues, hand soap, etc, over his head and it got stuck. “Help, Beth! Help!” he cried as she untangled him.

The bus pulled up. I noted he has the same bus driver, who was always friendly and kind to him last year. He got on the bus and it drove off, taking my first-born on another trip to the moon.