First Day of School

Bike riding on the first day of school.
The streets are quiet
because everyone is already
at their lockers,
or their desks.
Coasting downhill,
the warm September air
feels cool on my sweaty face.
It feels like so many
other September mornings.
If I close my eyes,
I am 12 years old.
Or 9.
Or 51.

I pedaled hard to get up this hill.
Pushing. Pressing.
Holding back tears,
as I thought of this morning
when I took a picture.
The first day of school picture.
My daughter
standing on the front steps.
I see her. Smiling. Shining.
Ready to take on her world.
I also see
the empty space next to her,
where her sister should be.
Where her sister was
in so many other pictures.
But she is off,
taking on
her own world now.
A different world.
So I pedal, and I breathe,
and I try not to cry.

I certainly will cry
if I begin to think back
on all of the other
September mornings in my life.
So many mornings
that came, and went,
some monumental,
some without much notice at all.
I certainly will cry
if I begin to think
about the possible future
September mornings in my life.
How many more
will age and time
afford me, allot me, allow me…?
And among them,
a morning when there is no one
on the stairs
for the first day of school.
A morning when I will
walk away from those stairs
for the very last time.
A morning when I can
no longer remember
those stairs at all.

I ride into the park,
onto the path,
under the trees,
and allow myself
to become hypnotized
by the sound of acorns
beneath my tires.
Crackle and pop.
Crackle and pop.
Crackle and pop.
I’m riding my bike.
On the first day of school.

…..

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