Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's Her Last First Day of School.

At 7:31 this morning, she bounded out of her room and grabbed her backpack.

"Bye, Dad."

"Bye. Have a good day."

"Thanks. You, too."

She strode out of the door, her footsteps heavy and confident.

My daughter is a high school senior—and today is her last first day of school.

After she left, I sat at the dining room table and stared at the back of the door. It's the same doorway that she, her mom and I nervously exited on a similarly sun-drenched morning twelve years ago.

No stone lay unturned that day, no detail ignored. Dresses were laid out, a specific breakfast and lunch had been requested and prepared. A box for her lunch and a box for her pencils, a water bottle which nestled snugly into the webbing of her brand new backpack from Target.

The knees on her fresh white tights wouldn't stay smooth and unstained for long; her sparkly black maryjanes would soon meet the scuffing reality of the asphalt playground. She looked perfect.

Today it was a t-shirt and jeans. This morning it wasn't a Blues Clues backpack, just a blue one.

She still looked perfect.

Why didn't I hug her this morning like I did just before her kindergarten teacher kindly ushered us out of the classroom that morning in 2000?

I really wish I had.

Back then, the milestones had hit in such rapid succession—that morning in the summer of 1995 when I made a goofy face and she cackled for the first time. Her laugh was like a drug and I didn't care about conjuring up that same ridiculous face in the grocery store or the doctor's office or in the middle of a wedding.

Her beautiful little laugh trumped all.

During the spring of 1998, the sound of pee hitting water ushered in another understated, yet highly welcome, era. While neither her mother nor I believed it likely that she'd be wearing pull-ups to kindergarten, we also knew it was a domain over which she wielded absolute power.

And oh, did that girl like calling the shots.

She posed for her first team portrait in 1999—kneeling in the front row for a squad called the Yankees. Forty-one team photographs later, nothing matches the sight of her slapping that first ball off the tee and gleefully sprinting to third base instead of first.

And then it was time to start school.

After dropping her off that first morning, her mother and I walked silently back to the car. I knew she was on the verge of tears and any conversation would have released the floodgates.

It's funny. Today feels exactly the same.

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