2 Sep

First of First

Wombat first day of first grade

Today was Wombat’s first day of first grade (FIRST GRADE), and we’ve done so much all-caps-excited talking about it for weeks on end that I was completely caught off guard last night by the sudden sneaker wave of sadness that almost knocked me off my feet as I stood staring off into the proverbial horizon of the school year. I was surprised because I’m not really sad about it at all, I swear. First grade will be awesome and he’s so ready to have the company of his friends and to get back into the routine of his classes, and I’m so ready to get back into the routine of working alone and taking trips to the grocery store that don’t feel like hostage negotiations because I’ve got one or more children terrorizing my trek through the canned goods. It’s time.

Maybe it’s just that we had too much fun right there at the end of summer. I was supposed to take all of August off work and have Wombat home with me every day for three weeks of Crazy Awesome Funtime Summer Extravaganza, but then a few projects slid into that space and he ended up spending a lot of time reading in the corner (which was mostly fine by him, thank you very much) while I worked at breakneck pace for the reward of getting my ass handed to me in Monopoly Jr. before it was time to pick up Fox from daycare. Aside from the weekend we went camping, it wasn’t until last week that I was able to wrap up worky things or put them aside for a bit and diligently suck all the marrow from the few days we had left of summer proper. (How in the world that became an acceptable metaphor is beyond me. Gross, Thoreau. Gross.) So we went rock climbing and school shopping and swimming at a pool and swimming at the boys’ first water park and we spent the day at the science museum and washed my car and built a trebuchet and read a million books and ate hot tomatoes from the backyard garden when little brother wasn’t around. When I realized last night that I was losing my crazy awesome funtime summer buddy, I guess I just got a little bummed that it was over, that he was off to a grand new adventure, leaving me behind.

Orrrrrr maybe I’m just sad that I can’t sleep in anymore.

When we were at the California Academy of Sciences on Monday, we saw the planetarium show about Earth’s place in the universe, as illustrated by a simulation of a camera zooming out from the building we were sitting in, going up through the roof, into space, and then out as far as something like 900 million light years away, from which vantage point we were treated to an illustration of how many thousands of galaxies exist, each with however many star systems and however many planets (dozens? hundreds? kajillion billions?) and all the boggling potential those places, those homes(?) could contain. Before the show started, the docent suggested that the back two rows be used for people who might need to make a hasty exit, whether because they were with a small child or were prone to motion sickness or, say, “existential horror.” Existential horror! It seemed like such a funny phrase I figured he was probably joking, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s an actual clinical term for the feeling certain people get when confronted with the vastness of outer space or the infinitude of time, or even the finiteness of time within that infinitude, and probably also the panicked sensation of smallness that wells up when certain people look out to sea, or out into the future.



Last night, Simon turned to me as we were falling asleep and thanked me for “producing such a great first-grader” with him. “It’s weird,” I said, as our entire relationship flashed before my eyes. “It’s just so weird.”

Not missing a beat, he hit me with this certain truth: “It’s only going to get weirder.”

The rightness of that is surely adding to my surprise sadness over sending my firstborn off to his first day of first grade. The first day is special (in a way that the second day and twelfth day and fifty-first day are not) because it marks the beginning of what’s to come, and once it’s started, there’s no way of stopping it. If you can somehow postpone the first day, you should technically be able to stave off everything after, right? The first day of first grade leads to all the other days of first grade, and then second grade follows, and third and fourth and fifth and then middle school and high school, and then it’s out of the house and onto a university campus, and, as a well-dressed pig once said, “That’s all, folks.” Even not compared to the approximately 13.8 billion years between today and the Big Bang (and what was there before that?! *silent scream*), childhood goes way too fast, and it’s fair to say I’ll never ever ever catch up to its carefree clip through my personal timeline.

I’ve been told by more than one motivational poster that today is the first day of the rest of my life, but IMO that’s kind of dumb and obvious and, to tell the truth, doesn’t motivate me so much as simply make me feel guilty for not doing something more noteworthy with my limited time. (Listen, those episodes of ANTM aren’t going to watch themselves.) And yet there’s something about today–and maybe this will be true of every First Day of X Grade?–that feels like the beginning of everything else. It’s a Little Bang, a moment of chemical magic from which Wombat’s universe will expand ever outward.

So forgive me if today I act like I’ve just sent my six-year-old off to college. Or off into deep space. It’s not sadness, see, just a tiny bit of existential horror. And it might be contagious.

Wombat aquarium

By    3 Comments    Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries


  • This was lovely. We had a rough first grade (there were more transitional issues than just going from K to 1, it was a whole class issue) and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in 2nd even though everything seems to be smooth and good.

  • I love it so much when you write. *happy sigh* I love everything about this – the feeling of beginnings, endings, our place i in the universe, existential horror, how fast all this time flies. And I think marrow sucking was much more accepted in past generations. ;-)

  • Great writing. I love your blog for posts like these. And “thanked me for ‘producing such a great first-grader’ with him”… awww!

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