School: Day 1 (The Freak-Out)Thomas Beller
I was so preoccupied with the logistics of moving into our new house that I hardly noticed the arrival of the first day of school. Perhaps I was in denial. At the parent’s orientation, at 2pm on Wednesday, I put my forehead into my palm and was suddenly asleep. This might have been a regression to my old response to school, or if it might have been a kind of narcoleptic response to the overwhelming fact that I was a father of a girl about to be released my into the wild’s of Kindergarden and beyond. But whatever the reason, it wasn’t a good sign.
It had been a tiring few days. The flight to New Orleans with the kids. The discovery that the house was nowhere near ready to be moved into. The scramble for a hotel. The many contractor conversations. The sense of disorientation that accompanies the first hours or days in a place you know well but don’t know at all. It may actually be easier to go to an entirely new city than to one you think of as home but have not seen for a while.
“My therapist says character (and healthy attachment) is revealed in arrivals and departures,” wrote a friend today, in response to a summary of our past few days. Not quite “May you live in interesting times,” but in that vicinity.
Arrivals: to New Orleans. To a New House (which is an old house). To a hotel because the New House is not ready.
Departures: From New York. From Summer vacation. From the new house, having peeked in to find the painters still working and dust everywhere.
Evangeline’s first day of school defies these two categories, or encompasses them.
Although we talked about her starting Kindergarten all summer – there had been a lot of anxiety about her getting in, and when she did we celebrated, and returned to that spirit of accomplishment often – I didn’t realize it was really happening until it was happening.
Then the day came. The hotel is in the Central Business District; it was a bit of a drive to school. We were rushing, anxious about traffic. For whatever reason my wife drove, which was unusual, and added to an oddly passive feeling I had. At one point I turned around to get a look at Evangeline and take her picture. Her hands were up against the closed window. Her face set in a somber mood of anxiety. Something about the hands and their positioning killed me.
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