Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Burning heart

(just finishing this up now, but I wrote this way back in September...)

September 2, 2011

This morning, after breakfast, I had a lump in my throat.  Like I'd eaten something that hadn't quite made it's way all the way to my stomach.  It burned each time I tried to swallow more until it dawned on me that this was actually a case of heartburn.

I guess it's been awhile since I've had heartburn like this and I was a little mystified as to why it showed up after eating a pretty typical breakfast.  Hmm...time to find the Tums (which, we can all thank Aaron for insisting that we keep Tums on hand in our household for moments such as this).

Today is the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer.  At least, growing up in Minnesota, it was the last hurrah.  This is the weekend of one last trip to the State Fair.  The weekend of a few more late nights.  The weekend of packing, re-packing, and then maybe again double checking the backpack for school.  The weekend of choosing outfits for the coming week, those decidedly fall pieces of clothing - sweaters, corduroys, long sleeves - that I so desperately wanted to wear even though the daytime temps would still be pushing 80.  It is the weekend of waning daylight - nearly two hours of daylight have slipped through our fingers in the past weeks but it's this weekend that the days start to feel short again.  This is the weekend of summer warmth that can still officially be called summer but there is the merest hint of fall in the evening air, in the morning dew.  So much anticipation for what the new school year will hold while wishing that the long and easy days of summer would linger just a little bit longer.

It doesn't feel like that here in southern California.  Sure, there's anticipation for the new school year.  Sure, the days are shorter here too.  But it's blazing inferno hot.  And the sun, well, it's different here.  The light is different.  And the evenings don't hold quite the same promise of coming crisp, cool air that Minnesota does.

After we moved here, every September, every Labor Day weekend, I'd feel the same sense of anticipation and excitement.  My body would crave the September weather of the midwest.  I would stare longingly at my long pants and heavy knit sweaters.  It knew.  My body remembered those deep red 7 o'clock sunsets that burned away while I cracked open my algebra book, digging in to equations and theories that were more familiar a few months ago.  My body remembered that, while it felt like sweatshirt weather in the morning, by afternoon it would feel like the middle of summer.

It took a long long time to forget this and forget I eventually did.  I could conjure up the feeling, sure, but my internal calendar had grown used to summer peaking in September and lasting well into October and sweater weather not showing up but for that one day in late January.  Jeans you can wear in November but you can still wear your flip-flops then too.

I'm sad to have forgotten this because I love fall.  I love that anticipation, the excitement of a new year.

But I'll admit, I was also relieved to realize I'd forgotten the first year it happened.  The start of the school year was also stressful - what would my schedule be like, where would my classes be, who would be in my classes, who were my friends going to be, who would be my locker buddy, what was my combination to my locker and what if I forgot it (I can't tell you how many dreams I have where I can't figure out my locker combination or how exactly to spin the combo to get it to open.  Sheesh.).  It was a lot of stress and anxiety, actually, though it usually settled down within the first couple weeks, once I got into the rhythm of things again.

Even on good years - years where I was excited to go back, had plenty of friends and knew they'd be in most of my classes, felt comfortable with navigating the school and teachers and activities, had a place and belonged - even then, excitement mingled with anxiety.

So here I am with this lump in my throat, trying to figure out why my regular ol' piece of toast would give me reflux.  I ponder this while I brush Haven's hair, while I help her pick out some (matching) clothes, while we brush our teeth, while we wait with a mix of excitement and anticipation for my mother-in-law to arrive to babysit Sebastian...so that Haven and I can go to her preschool for the first time.

It is Haven's first day of school.

And so this lump shouldn't be such a surprise to me.  My summer in Minnesota this year has retrained my body to anticipate fall, dying light, cool mornings and warm afternoons.  My body is ready for the packing of the backpack, new schedules and new classrooms, old friends, new faces, the whirlwind that is the first day, the first week of school.

And there's a little girl in me that senses this anticipation, knows the appointment that is on the calendar for today, and she is remembering all of the highs and lows of the first day of school.  Feeling alone and somewhat lost, even in years where I wasn't alone and knew my way around.  She is carrying the weight of all my first days, school, work, parenthood, and there's a lot of excitement, nervousness, anxiety all bundled up in her.

And there's the me now, the 30-something mom of two young kids, who's a little bit exhausted, a little bit bewildered, and a lot a bit wildly in love.  The me now who is wishing that becoming a parent didn't mean a lifelong process of nurture and release, of bringing them close in order to help them fly on their own.  Thus far, the releases have been small, incremental, almost a relief - I didn't realize this step would come so soon.

I swallow the lump in my throat once again as Haven walks into her new classroom with a marked mix of caution and curiosity.  My heart burns as I, mustering all the sweetness and joy that I can, wave goodbye.  "See you in a little bit!" I lilt, as her new teacher gently guides her away to play with new friends.

I know that she is safe, cared for, and loved in this new place.  I know, too, that it is only a short time out of our week and I'll grow to enjoy the time apart.  In the meantime, I'm grateful for my burning heart, grateful that it's just a little bit hard to let go of that which we love.  This lump in the throat will subside, I'm sure, but for now it makes me excited for the hug I'll get when I pick her up from her first day of preschool.

I'm going to be a mess when she goes away to college.