This time last year, I sat in my chair and worried about Gavin and Grace, both of whom were nervous for their first day of school.
This year, I sit in my chair, and smile to myself because both Gavin and Grace are super excited for school to start. Like literally could not wait.
I am so glad. Gladder than I’ve ever been since moving here. I feel truly happy today – and there’s no underlying nervous edge like I’ve had on this day each year prior.
Why? I’m gonna say … Community. It’s happening. It’s here. We have one.
Woo hoo – Finally!
I know that sounds strange given that we’re fast approaching our five year anniversary in Portland. Let me go all broken record here for a minute – there’s something hard about integrating your young family into a new community. When you’re 3000 miles away from where you lived the first half of your life – so far away from the familiarity of your familial infrastructure and lifelong friends – you feel strange and out of place for a long time. Of course, when you combine our work and work travel schedules with kids activities and sports, it’s not really conducive to a big social life for any of us, which compounds the issue. Hahaha! The good news here? I’ve now realized that becoming part of a community is a series of baby steps, and, after the past few days, I feel like we may have finally arrived.
We’re fresh off a long, lazy weekend (which included a few days off for me). I had planned to squeeze in some last summer flings – you know, all the things we didn’t get to do this summer because we worked, and the kids were in camps. Instead, I hit pause. And realized that I had TIME. Such a rare, fleeting gift these days, right? Why am I trying to mess it up with a schedule of things? Particularly on our last weekend before soccer kicks off in full force next weekend? #crazy.
So, I unplanned. And we did not much of anything. And I have to say it was my favorite weekend in a long time.
Friends were all back from their summer adventures, and our neighborhood and community were bustling with school preparation (for the parents) and the last lazy days of hanging out (for the kids). The kids met their teachers, and they now know enough kids that each have friends in their classes – solidifying their excitement for the upcoming year. We hosted a kids movie night, then a movie afternoon. The kids played outside endlessly. They each read a book (admittedly, their only one all summer! Had to sneak one in to dampen my “worst mom at school” fears! Oy!) I had the greatest girls night – a simple night comprised of a happy hour and a movie…followed by a few hours of hanging out chatting and laughing…so much laughing. Grace toured the Audubon Society of Portland with some friends while Gavin played soccer at the park with his boys, and I hung out with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Even Bob got in on the action and hung out with some dog friends. The kids had friends over to play. They went to friends’ houses to play. We cooked dinners together. They made their first batch of brownies all by themselves. They packed their own school bags and picked out their lunches. They giggled as they incessantly and excitedly talked a mile a minute about going back to school. (even Gav!). We had so much fun.
This was living.
I look at this weekend and think – yep, we’ve got a great community. I’m happy to be a part of it. And even happier that Gavin and Grace are. And happier still that, as they get older, they are truly becoming part of the community. They are Portlanders. Ones who are enjoying the people and experiences around them. Ones who are spreading their wings and ramping up for take off.
How do I know? This: Last night, the usual hug and linger with their head buried in the nook between my head and my shoulder didn’t happen. You know the one where you can see bravery unfold before your eyes as you listen closely to hear their inner voices screaming “keep it together, man!” We’ve graduated to full-on tight squeezes as they grin and say, “See you tomorrow, Mom. First day of school!” before they excitedly scramble up the steps. Bittersweet: We’ve got a few years left on the runway before they take off. But I am happy to see their growing independence…and confidence.
Welcome, 2016-17 school year. Let’s do this!
P.S. How ’bout them lunches? I wanted photo evidence that I tried to rock their lunches one day this year. We all know that shit won’t last… let’s go back and take a look at exhibit A.