A couple of days ago, I sent my little girl off for her very last first day of elementary school. Assuming we don't move (we're not) and she's not expelled (she won't be), my kids will have accomplished what I did not, attending the same elementary school all the way from kindergarten to graduation.
I have only two kids, but it still seems like a stretch of time we've spent at this school. Some faces have changed. We're on our second principal, we just lost our beloved counselor, and those K-5 parents are mostly strangers to me. Many folks have remained, though. Most of the teachers my kids have had are still there, the same art and music and PE and technology teachers. The same librarian.
On the first day each year, the PTA hosts a "Boo Hoo and Yahoo" breakfast for parents. My first one, in 2004, was definitely a boo hoo, my baby boy a kindergartner! When did that happen? I met a number of women that day I still count as friends. Some, like me, were releasing their firstborn. Others were more seasoned and yahooing over their new-found freedom to start a new job or just go to the grocery store alone. Every year I've grabbed a cup of coffee, milled about the cafeteria chatting with old friends and new, always taking a moment or several to simply look around, observe and absorb. I was very aware last weekend that this year's breakfast would be my last. Next year will be junior high and high school, and a different kind of boo hooing.
(Sixth grade girls, ready for the year)
But you know what happened? I forgot to go! The sixth graders have a tradition of meeting up on a local lawn for breakfast the first day, then walking as a class to school. I dutifully dropped off my daughter and her friend, snapped a few quick pictures on my phone, and headed back home to walk my son to school. And totally forgot about the breakfast.
Now, a few days later, I'm wondering what this says about me. Maybe nothing. Or maybe that the transition has already begun. Have I already said goodbye to elementary and resigned myself to the next phase? Honestly, I don't think so. The good news is, I've been able to shrug it off. In the past, that might not have been possible, and my husband would be very happy to tell you how I am more than capable of agonizing over what is missed.
But letting go--letting go of missed opportunity, of traditions, of time--is part of life. It's also a big part of writing. It's hard to let go of words we love, words we've carefully cultivated and arranged, but that perhaps no longer have a place. Hard to let go of a great scene, or a great character, that turns out just doesn't belong. But like letting go of a missed event or letting go of a school, as I will be forced to do in nine short months, is part of life. Letting go of words is part of writing. It's hard.
This year, I would have been ambivalent in my boo hoo or yahoo. Instead, I'm letting it go. I've let characters go completely, and I keep a "darlings" file for scenes I love that have no place in the stories as they proceed, but I can't say I really look at it. It's filed away, the memories and ghosts of what was and what is no more, and that's enough. As it should be.