Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Notes From the Nest
Today was Alena's first day of high school.
We woke up when it was still dark out.
Something that is NOT high on my list of favorites.
If God intended us to be awake at those hours, He would have given us basic things then
- Like the ability to SEE.
I helped her blow dry her hair and put on her makeup through bleary eyes.
We discussed which earrings she'd wear.
I microwaved a breakfast sandwich, wrapped it in a paper towel and printed her a map of the campus.
I took pictures of her outside in the designated "First-Day-Of-School-Picture-Spot."
I told her to "do her REAL smile."
Then we were off.
She was quiet through almost the entire car ride.
I kept glancing at her in the mirror.
"Are you nervous?" I asked.
"More excited than nervous, She said.
When we pulled into the bus circle I got nervous.
There was a SEA of kids.
My high school memories came flooding back.
Good, bad, and great.
The freshmen were as obvious as if they'd been doused in red paint.
Not just because they were smaller, but because their pupils took up the entire colored part of their eyes, and lots of them were still with a parent.
Like Bush Babies, every last one.
They all looked like if you shouted, they'd scatter and shake and cling to a limb.
There were two freshman boys standing in front of the main sign.
It was clear they'd probably called each other last night and agreed to meet there.
They poured nervously over their schedules and looked back and forth at the map, then around the school, trying to figure out what to do and where to go.
Obviously THEIR parents hadn't taken them to the campus on two separate days to walk around and find each class to help ease their first day panic even though it was a hundred degrees and they had three other little kids with them complaining that they were hot.
I noticed the big girl with greasy hair who walked alone.
Day one and she already looked like she knew her year would be awful.
I could see the senior boys surveying the new girls,
and the senior girls who knew they would be and had,therefore, dressed accordingly.
I saw girls that looked like they thought prom was on the very first day.
I saw boys who looked like their parents had thrown them in the back of a truck still asleep and dumped them at the front steps with just an uncrustable in a bag.
I saw a lot of new shoes, and some kids you could tell had maybe never had some.
I started sighting several of Alena's friends from Jr. High and felt relief for her because I TOTALLY remember how it felt the first day.
I had spotted the only person I knew and clung to her.
My life raft in shark infested waters.
I'll never forget walking into science class and attempting to sit looking super cool in the swivel chairs they had at the tables
and having mine fly out from underneath me leaving me flat on my back on the floor.
Hi. I'm Kerri. Nice to meet you all. Are my bangs flat now?
I saw what I viewed as the trendy, the lonely, the goths, and the geeks,
and then I saw my daughter exit the car and gather her stuff, kiss me goodbye, and head off to greet her friends like it was nothing.
I felt so proud of her.
Like, Dangerously close to bursting into song proud.
Proud because I know that she won't see things the way you'd worry some kids would.
Proud knowing she will look past the skinny lonely boy and see that he's really super smart and fun to be around.
Proud that she'll probably try to befriend the big girl because she doesn't like it when people are alone.
Sometimes watching her feels like watching magic happen.
Alena is a friend to everyone.
She's a complimenter.
She's an encourager.
She sees a need and tries to fill it.
She is going to totally thrive.
I just know it.
I mean, I wish I REALLY knew it - Like with surveillance video or one of those Nanny Cams disguised as a bear or something, but still...
I circled around in the car and drove past her slowly, rolling down my window.
She was standing talking to a friend I didn't even know.
I did loud fake wailing cries and yelled her name as I passed.
It was really the least I could do.
I mean, I DO have a reputation to uphold.
She waved and I drove.
I was blocking up the bus circle with my neediness.
And then I got just past the school and started to feel like I was choking.
This was it.
I'd nudged her from the nest and she was flying on her own.
As a matter of fact, she hadn't even looked back at me until I'd called her name.
She's leaving me.
Before I knew it she'd be sitting in bleachers watching her boyfriend on the field under the field lights;
Excited breath like smoke in the night air.
Soon she'll be driving and wanting to go to dances and maybe even, Dear God help me,
I feel like she is ready, but also like there are some things she still needs to know.
That this is when it really begins.
That these are the years she will probably remember most and think back on most often.
At least until she has children of her own and then is left thinking only about how fast they're growing up.
That the words she says now will be remembered and worn and used to form someone's sense of self,
so to choose them carefully.
That the words other people say to her can do one of two things.
They can scar her or they can spur her on, and which one they do is up to her.
That every hurtful thing that happens in those walls can be turned to triumph.
That one day she can look back and use every episode, every trial, every heartbreak for her own good.
Stepping stones to personal greatness.
That growth cannot happen without pain. Stretching hurts, but it's necessary to keep you flexible.
That she will probably get her heart broken at least once by someone she wished would love her,
another someone would love her and she'd never even know it.
That one day she'd look back and be grateful that she got passed by by that heart-breaker,
because she will see that it led to someone who could love her in the way she could never even understand in high school.
That she doesn't have to be the smartest,
the most beautiful,
the most popular,
the most wealthy,
the most athletic,
or the best at everything.
That all she needs is to be herself, because who she is is one of the most beautiful treasures - worth more than any title.
That it's OK to struggle at something, because for every struggle, there will be a success at something else and all of life is about balance.
To never judge herself by what she sees in those crappy high school bathroom and gym locker mirrors.
They're warped and scratched and are never your true reflection anyway.
That her thoughts of herself will be in constant metamorphasis, but mine and God's will not.
I will never doubt who she is.
She is mine and I am hers and that is all that matters.
Just as it's always been from that very first time I sat alone with her in the hospital room with her tiny hand wrapped around my index finger.
And I know she needs to learn this on her own.
I know that my words cannot ever be her only teacher.
I know that some lessons cannot be taught by another person, but only by experience.
But I hope, above all, that she can always choose to see the value in herself that I see in her.
That she will never surrender that easily.
Today was the first day since her very first day in school that I haven't written a note on the napkin and tucked it in her lunch.
This note just wouldn't fit on a napkin.
Alena, I love you.