Lunch sandwiches made - at 7am. Breakfast to eat - on the go. Coffee brewed - at a time of the morning no brewing had taken place for a while.
Showers. School clothes. Cramming notebooks and papers in bookbags. Lunchboxes on the kitchen counter, ready to go, but so easy to leave behind. It's already happened, and this is just the first week. We're out of practice.
Some new routines that really are new. The two boys going two different places. One to elementary school and the other to middle school. And here in Charlotte, different schools start at different times, to maximize bus usage.
So the new routine I call "divide and conquer:" my wife takes our younger son to elementary school, leaving no later than 8 in the morning, coffee in hand. She drops him off and then heads on to her new job working at the church preschool three days a week. Half an hour later, Elder and I depart, and on my way to work I drop him off at middle school.
Middle school. I have a hard time believing he's in middle school. And yes, I know I'll have a hard time believing when he's in high school, and when he graduates, and when we drop him off at college, and when he graduates from college, and when he gets married. I get that. Life is a succession of benchmarks anticipated and then experienced, but I'm not ready to think about those still to come. I'm thinking about this one this week, because that's where I am. And the thought of having a son in middle school feels weird, just weird.
I drop him off and there's a crowd of students huddled outside - they haven't yet opened the doors. These kids look huge to me; the few seconds I see them as the car door swings open and my son quickly exits (Don't say goodbye to me here, say it earlier, he has told me. I oblige). They're huge, but the truth is that my son is no pushover, either. Summer has seen him crack five feet, which means it's now down to months before he's looking me eye-to-eye. True, with me this is no great accomplishment. I know and accept this. Which is why I encourage my son to always set his sights higher, on this and on other matters.
Middle school. Man. I still get hung up on that one.
But I'm mostly grateful. Grateful that a new year is upon us, because as much as I love the easy flow of summer, there's a reason God made watches and alarm clocks and calendars. We are creatures of routine; and new or old it's nice to get back into them.
And as we continue in this journey of our first year since the move, I'm very grateful that my boys are getting to start school along with everyone else this time around. Not like last year, when the week before Thanksgiving they were unceremoniously dropped into a random class like a paratrooper dropped from a flyover into a strange and foreign land. This time, thank God, they were able to experience walking through those school doors, knowing that moment was just as new for everyone else as it was for them.
It's new, and yet it's still the same. And it's only the first week. And I'm so very grateful.