I heard sounds upstairs at 5:45am this morning. Creaking floorboards, the shower door sliding open and closed. It was still dark outside. First day of school and my 11-year-old was wide awake and got up to get ready. The 16-year-old woke up shortly after his younger sister. It has been months since the last time he was up before the sun. Lunches packed followed by the first day of school picture by the front door. A flashback to when they both were too small to look out of the peek hole. I watched from my window as the high schooler drove off down the hill to begin his junior year.
While buckling my seatbelt when it was finally time to take Julia, I looked over and asked,
“What are you thinking?”
She smiled and said, “Top of the totem pole.”
Sixth grade is the top of the totem pole. Julia has been on the grounds of this elementary school for 11 years. She’s watched two older brothers move year after year from classroom to classroom from her stroller. She waved to her older brothers during playground time when she attended the preschool which also met at the elementary school. She finally was old enough to have her own desk in first grade when I was diagnosed with cancer. We finished cancer treatment during her second grade and brought leftover cake to share with her classmates after our big celebration. Third grade and we explored Anaheim together when it was time to research for her Orange County city report. Fourth grade and she became an upper grader with two older brothers in high school. Fifth grade her oldest brother went off to college all the way across the country. Now in sixth grade, at the top of the totem pole, she is ready to launch.
And today was the first of the lasts.
When Julia finishes off this school year, it will be the end of an era for our family at this elementary school. Fifteen years of homework folders, assemblies, field trips, class parties and parent teacher conferences. And just like getting attached to a physical house, the rooms in this school are filled with memories and significant moments. But now when we arrive at each event, it will be another last. Our last science camp, last biography report, last back to school night, last, last, last. Lasts seem so final.
When we arrived early at our normal drop off spot, she walked off down the stairs ahead of me. Confident, excited. Probably a good three to four inches taller from last year at this time. She fixed her own hair, with extra twists and a ponytail to the side. She noticed the new girl waiting by the door and smiled and introduced herself and then began introducing the new girl to each of her friends as they showed up.
I pulled out my phone to take pictures. She asked to see them, looked up and said,
“It’s going to be a great year.”