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FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
September 3, 2003
 
At the girls-only gym, they're playing the Supremes' greatest hits, in a speeded-up dance version that's supposed to make us all move faster. It works, too: each of those songs, brings back a memory of when we were young, and our bodies respond almost as if we still were. We sing, too: "Baby Love" and "Where Did Our Love Go?" and "Stop! In The Name of Love." And clap and dance, dance like Flo and Mary used to do behind Diana Ross: "Ooooh..." we sing and hold the note, one hand on our swinging hips and the other one pointing straight forward. Just like the Supremes, only old.

Not everyone at Curves is middle-aged. Madeline knows these songs, too --- everybody knows the Supremes -- but she doesn't sing. She rolls her eyes at our performance. She pulls and pushes at the weight machines, and quietly wonders if she will die of embarrassment at my ungrandmotherly behavior.

Except she is smiling a little, behind her facade of ennui. You guys are dorks, she says in the car. Yes, I suppose I am a dork. But I am your dork. Everybody gets to be embarrassed by their parents. We were. It's part of life, and builds character. You're extremely blessed to have a grandmother nearby. You get to be embarrassed that much more.

She has other things on her mind besides her embarrassing grandmother, in any case. She starts high school tomorrow. In the car, a cell phone conversation about what will be worn on the first day. Later in the evening, a precise exchange about what time I should pick her up in the morning, so that we have time to go and get her friend and still make it to school on time.

Full of excitement and fear, self-confidence and self-doubt jockeying for position within her tender spirit, exquisitely beautiful and not yet aware that this is so, she dresses carefully for this walk into her future. She is a scholar, too, as well as a young girl, and I think she is excited about the new work she will undertake at the new school. When she leaves it, four short years from now, it will be to leave us.

The four years stretch out in front of her -- forever. I watch her as she enters the school building --"Don't call out to me or say anything to me once I'm out of the car, Mamo, like 'good luck' or anything loud, okay?" -- and I know that the four years will be over in what seems like ten minutes.

I won't say anything. Not a word. Not "I remember what a pretty baby you were." I won't say that I'm proud of you. I won't say what a delight it is to see your mother in you and your sister, little snippets of her here and there, in a look or an expression. I won't say that I know you will do well in high school, and that you will love it -- not everybody does, but I think you will. The last thing I will say to you -- before you open the car door, so nobody hears and finds out that your grandmother is a dork -- is that I am saying a special prayer for you today.

God our Father, you see your children growing up
in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that
your ways give more life than the ways of the world,
and that following you is better than chasing after
selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a
measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new
start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

A Prayer for Young Persons,
Book of Common Prayer, p. 829
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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