Dropped off the kids for first day of school and found myself teary eyed once again. We did it with the same rituals we always do. Last night we laid out their first day of school clothes like scarecrows on their bedroom floor. I snuck a note in their lunch boxes and snapped a photo in the foyer before heading out. Thank goodness for the rituals.
Let’s face it, the melancholy of my kids growing older each year isn’t just about them. This melancholy’s been with me since I had my own first days of school. That restless twinge in the stomach because summer’s over. The scent of the first browning leaf somewhere in the wind. No more playing into the late evening on those long summer days. But, there’s nervous excitement, too. So many crisp white pages in my composition books, shiny black shoes, the possibility that comes with brand new starts. Every year - sad for the old, anticipation for the new - coexisting precariously.
That yearly rhythm and the melancholy never did go away for me. Even when I lived in a tropical climate where there’s no Autumn. End of summer/school’s starting is in my bones. It’s this in-between time – like the time between dusk and nightfall - when the old and new mix together into a purplish red haze that washes over the horizon and leaves you raw.
When there’s change, there’s loss. If you can feel the haze without numbing out, you can touch the sadness, the rawness of loss. We all know there’s nothing we can do to stop change, no matter how many digital photos we snap or poignant moments we post.
But, then there are the rituals. Rituals and ceremony remind us that our personal experience is a part of the Human experience. They connect us to each other, to something greater, and that’s a comfort. We are carried in that same beautiful wave that is life happening.
My kids and I deal with those times of change in the way that I know best - with ceremony. Sometimes our ceremonies are, well, ceremonial - like when my daughter weaned, and together we said “good-bye” to “Mama milk”, lit a candle, reveled in how big she was growing and touched glitter to our foreheads to honor that special closeness we shared. Last night, before the first day of school, our ceremony was the subtle kind. I thanked them for a fun summer, and then we took turns speaking our wishes for each other and intentions for the new school year.
The ancient civilizations knew that it helps us when we mark the passage of time. The ceremonies help me to acknowledge the endings, the in-betweens and the new beginnings. Like the black and white marble cover of that composition book, the ceremonies make the raw, beautiful haze of life – just a little more workable. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a new chapter – my kids wanting to be with me less, the risks I need to take with every new venture. But, I know I have no choice. And, when we don’t know how to move forward, the rituals give us a step to stand on – one, shiny shoed foot at a time.