This weekend I ran into Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. I actually think that is an oxymoron because who ever just leaves with a “few things” when they check out anyway? I forgot momentarily that it was not only the back to school weekend but also tax-free weekend. Big mistake. I say that not because I hate crowds, which I do and which there was a big crowd, but because I was not ready for the emotional meltdown it precipitated.
I think I was looking for “Aspen Woods” candles when I heard a mom and little girl discussing the difference between #2 lead pencils and mechanical lead pencils. The mom was trying to con the daughter into the cheap 20 # 2 lead pencils for a buck and the girl, probably eight years old, was not having it. The mom finally convinced her but only because she bargained with a Zac Efron binder. As they turned the corner towards book bags, I saw them and for a minute I was navigating the school supply aisle with two girls who were grinning with excitement. With sunburned noses and worn out flip-flops that had seen the best of summer they were meticulous in looking over every single folder until Big Girl found one with Jonas Brothers and Baby Girl found one with a kitty cat. The simplicity and newness of fresh binders and sharp pencils would give us all hope for a new school year.
I look back down and realize that I am not holding packs of paper, but instead “Aspen Woods” candles, that actually smell more like Old Spice are in my hands. Who am I kidding? No reason to be sentimental now. I used to hate back to school shopping. It would end with the girls spreading their loot all over the living room floor while I nursed a migraine with a Diet Coke. The Mister would be looking at the receipts and wondering out loud why the cost of school supplies equaled the national deficit, and we still had to get tennis shoes for everyone. I would wait to tell him that after supper.
I don’t miss that. I don’t miss packing lunches or looking for shoes under the couch. I don’t miss another school note asking for $20 or another note describing how if only I would work with Big Girl a little at home she will soon master her mathematic curriculum. I don’t miss homework and the tears that accompanied it. I don’t miss middle school drama or the endless cycle of pants that were bought last week, but are now too short.
You know what I miss? Wanna know why I had a mini-meltdown in my car after watching the little girl and her mom? I watched them both dig through the bin of plastic rulers. They were looking for a purple one because, of course what self-respecting third grade girl would bring anything but a purple ruler? The little girl triumphantly holds the purple ruler in the air, “I found one! It’s perfect!” The mom smiles and they head to the check out line that is so long it snakes down and around the produce. The girl puts her hands in her moms and says with eyes that sparkle, “Mama this is gonna be the greatest year ever.”
And that is what made me cry.
I miss Big Girl and Baby Girl holding my hand and telling me excitedly what the teacher wore and how they would rather have peanut butter and jelly instead of ham sandwich tomorrow. I miss being needed I guess more than anything.
And then my phone beeps. It’s the Mister and he is asking where I am. Everyone is waiting on me. We are eating Zaxby’s with Big Girl and Her Boy and I need to hurry, because they are hungry. Over supper we talk about everything and nothing at all. We listen to them in the booth just next to us talk about working and school and Her Boy teases Baby Girl in the same way The Mister teases me and I smile. I’m not sad anymore, just thankful now.
Baby Girl doesn’t really need me to help her get ready this year. I have more freedom, more time for just me and The Mister. I can do whatever I want all day on Saturday. I don’t get anyone dressed or even up these days. Instead of handing out pop tarts to little girls, I am taking a long run before work. I have time to do all the things I have put off for the last twenty years. I really don’t miss going back to school, I don’t. And I realize with a smile as The Mister tells me about our next out-of-town adventure that it’s not” nothing” we are going back after all. We are back to everything we have put on hold….and that makes me smile bigger than the girl with her purple ruler.