You stepped silently down the stairs, gliding almost, and quietly joined us in the kitchen. The skirt that grazed your ankles a year ago when you first wore a uniform is now swishing around your knees. You slipped wordlessly into your seat, entirely focused on breakfast to the exclusion of all interruptions it seemed. Including my question “are you looking forward to seeing all your friends back at school today?”
Hoping hoping hoping for an enthusiastic response.
You raised your eyes to me, those wide grey pools giving me a glimpse of how you were feeling, and answered that you didn’t want to talk about it.
And I could see it clearly in those eyes that break my heart, that you were anxious. As I knew you would be.
But still I had hoped. Hoped that this being second time round and not the first day ever, that you’d be as happy today as you were all week, all month, looking forward to seeing friends and not anxious about moving up a class.
But my September girl, I know you, I know how difficult you find every change, every wrinkle, every scratch, every thread, every buckle, every new encounter.
I watched you carefully, while puttering and pottering around the kitchen, doing that mother-thing of talking up the occasion, painting the looming day as good and bright and happy and so so normal.
You started to chatter too, taking pictures of your little brother with your recently inherited not quite perfect camera. Talking about your upcoming birthday.
I could see that you were chatting to cover up your nervousness – how did it happen that someone who is not quite six is covering up nervousness?
You smile for photos outside the house but are quiet again on the car journey to school. Mulling it over, ready to be brave.
We walk to the school door, we hug tightly. You spend time hugging and kissing your sister and brother, clinging on a little longer than usual. You smile brightly but tightly, still being brave. You walk through the doors, heavy bag on your back, and turn slowly but with determination towards your classroom.
I watch you through the window, as you tentatively enter the room, looking around for familiar faces, for something to grasp onto, for some security in this sea of excited five-year-olds.
My heart breaks into tiny pieces as I watch you being brave. I want to be there holding your hand but I know I have to let you do this on your own.
You are your mother’s daughter. We are not different you and I. I’m just thirty-something years further down the road than you.