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Denise Ullem Headshot

Letting Go

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Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will wake to an alarm. I will stretch and flop back into my white, cotton, rumpled sheets. Somewhere, amid the heap of my body and brain and my heap of sheets and pillows, a jolt will start in my stomach and punch up through my brain:

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

TODAY

This jolt will rush, charged with emotional electricity and power.

I will rise and I will walk down my hardwood-floored stairs into the empty kitchen. My slippered feet will echo slightly in my slumbering house. I will turn on lights and turn on the local news (muted). I'll absently eat a banana (green). I will nudge the lunch boxes from their summer hibernation and begin to make lunches. I will stop, I will pause and I will absorb. I'll wonder: how many lunches have I made? How many more do I get to make? This thought will sear: we're halfway through raising Abby. We get nine more years.

My heart will feel full, bigger than me, with loud, gracious beats pounding in my ears. That fullness will hold an edge of undeniable melancholy. While filling water bottles and zipping those lunches boxes, I'll hear some footsteps. I'll hug each pajama-covered body and then hug them a bit longer, a bit harder. I'll pull them back and soak them up. Breakfast will commence.

Tomorrow, we will walk to school. The weather forecast promises humid with a side of humidity. The morning air, although thick, will carry a whisper of fall. I'll take Henry's silky hand in mine. Abby will not want to hold hands -- but, then again, she may surprise us. The cicadas will serenade Hubby, Abby, Henry and me on our way. Supply-laden backpacks will be worn. I'll point to the first red leaf, telling them how ready I am for briskness of fall. I'll hope my bright voice hides the quiver barely hiding beneath my bravado.

When we get to school, we will weave through the building and walk Abby to her 4th grade room. She will walk in front of us, an ever-independent, upper-elementary student. I will still reach out and gently stroke her head. She will observe everything unfolding around her with an expert, watchful eye. I will observe how tall and lanky she is. I will memorize the way the fluorescent light shines on her blonde, blonde curls. I will take note of her changing style and the panache with which she carries her ensemble. She will say little, but will offer a smile as a token of her affection and trepidation. She will greet her teacher and walk into her classroom. She may hesitate. If I'm lucky, she'll throw a quick smile my way before she wades into the stream of classroom activity.

I will feel glad and sad and slayed by the fact that I'm the parent of this gracious, sensitive 9-year-old fourth grader. My heart may skip several beats.

Hubby, Henry and I will head toward Henry's kindergarten classroom. I will still have his hand in mine. I will derive so much comfort from his small, compact hand. I will work my thumb over his skin, like a talisman, tracing the rote path my thumb has traveled many, many times.

We'll arrive and enter the buzz of classroom on the first day of school. We'll inhale the heady scent of tempura paint and new reams of paper. We'll join first-time kindergarten parents and seasoned ones; we'll exchange nervous smiles and tears will be wiped. My eyes will sweep the tiny kindergarten tables and the tiny bodies that sit at them. My heart will beat. I will wonder how it can beat even when caught in my throat. I will wonder if the sound of my heart can be heard by everyone in the room.

I will feel the emotion aching to escape from my eyes.

My baby.

At some point, I'll have to let go of his hand. I must let go of his hand. I must let go of him.

I. Must. Let. Go.

Hubby and I will start to walk away. I'll look back, over tensed shoulders, hoping for a glance of him. If I'm lucky, I will glimpse his blonde hair framing his solemn face, and his inquisitive blues eyes beginning to piece together the nuances and novelty of this Kindergarten routine.

I'll left-right-left myself out of the school building. Inside, the emotion will win. The happy-pride-scared-success-holy-sh*t feeling will finally release and reveal itself in wet trails on my cheeks. I'll feel the emptiness of my hand and look forward to the weight of his in mine again.

I'll let the tears come. I'll let them go. Just like her. Just like his hand. Just like him.