Summer’s Finish Line

John had the entire month of August to get sick but instead spiked a fever the night before the first day of school: a day circled and highlighted on our calendar since the end of June.

July was a piece of cake with summer camp to fill our days. But August! A month of unstructured weeks and hours. Fourteen days at the beach with family had its own poetry and routine but that left two more weeks. Two more long weeks. Pool fatigue set in and really — you can only go to the library so many times. That finish line was looking mighty fine for us all.

We went to open houses, met teachers, surveyed the land. We went to Target, stocked up on supplies, cleaned backpacks and lunch boxes. I began to talk to John in earnest about going back to school. “Back to school?” he laughed, jumping up and down. We picked out clothes, read stories about school, ticked off our classmates’ names (a total of four).

Finish line.

And then the middle of the night fever, the early morning refusal to eat or drink. The phone calls to the pediatrician, the bus depot, new teacher and school. The disappointment. (We were all disappointed, I will not lie!) But I felt so bad for him.

John loves school.

He loves the bus, the staff, the routine. And I love that he loves something that is apart from us. We had made it through so many days already, what was one more. But John sobbed for nearly two hours, I told him, “First doctor, then school tomorrow.” He’d repeat it, calm a little, then as if heard the injustice for the first time, cry again and wail, “School tomorrow?”

So John’s first day of school was Sam’s second. We were lucky: strep was negative and he awoke happy and fever-free. When the bus pulled up, he ran down the drive to meet it.

And his teacher this year? Fabulous.

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