THE SCHOOL BELL RINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME…AGAIN! By Lori A Alicea

My baby’s baby starts kindergarten this year.
school - Ayva first day of kindergarten 1

How can it be that just twenty-six years ago the school bus picked up my baby for her first day of kindergarten?
school - Candace first day of kindergartenBackpacks are heavier than ever with the weight of all that school stuff… pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, glue, scissors and a brand new item on the school list…sanitizer.
IMG_1861I wish it wasn’t so sweet Ayva, but school will be a bit different for you than for your mother twenty-six years ago.
school - Candace kindergarten pictureschool - Ayva first day of kindergartenThe school bell rings for five years olds everywhere…for the first time.

The school bell rings louder when that five year old is yours.

School bell stop ringing…
We’re not ready…at least I wasn’t.

Just yesterday our baby’s newborn smell overwhelmed while snuggling them quietly near our heart.
mom and Candacebaby - ayva newbornWe close our eyes for a second and the school bells rings for the first time for my baby’s baby.

For this grandmother, the school bell rings for the first time…again.
mom and daughter - Candace going to kindergartenmom and daughter - Candace and Ayva going to kindergarten

No matter how old a mother becomes, she never forgets those milestones, her children’s right of passages that mark in time their growing up.

I share with you Kindergarten Day for my baby twenty-six years ago.

Kindergarten Day!
The Start of New Beginnings
By Lori A. Alicea

The end of August is fast approaching.  The school bell is ready for the principal to ring.  Backpacks are stuffed, new sneakers are laced and moms everywhere are preparing their children for the first day of school, some for the very first year.

Though I registered my daughter this August for her senior year in high school and my son his senior year in college, this mother never forgot that bittersweet kindergarten day when the apron strings of her heart were cut.

Maybe it was in our maiden walk to school, lamenting my return alone.  Maybe it was their reluctance to leave my side as I brought them to their desk.  Maybe it was seeing their moistened eyes when I turned to check on them one last time.  Maybe it was noticing them looking for me outside their window.  Maybe it was hearing the school bell ring, wanting them desperately to be four again.  Whenever it was, this first day of school painfully required me to release them to their new beginning, severing ties that intertwined our lives before kindergarten.

Before this mom had time to dry her tears, the kids bounced back in new energy with field trips planned to the apple orchard and zoo.  Holiday parties and snack days were scheduled and backpacks daily emptied of schoolwork they were anxious to share.

Soon the refrigerator was papered with reading, writing and arithmetic.  Little friends started to call, inviting them over to play.  Where once we were cocooned in our own world of Sesame Street and adventures to the park, now my children were slowly becoming aware of their wings, spreading them ever so slightly at the edge of our nest.

As ironic that it may seem, I truly believed the best lesson I could teach my children, was to teach them to leave.  In order to pass the test, I had to be willing to open the doors of opportunity along their way, never blocking the entrance to future beginnings, yet keeping exit doors closed off from early escapes of hard times.

When once they scribbled in print, they now they communicate their feelings.  Where once they counted on their fingers, they now calculate life’s problems.  Where once they clung to me and dominated our conversation.  Now one lives six hours away and telephones when he can.  The other, a few steps behind.

Looking back, that first day of school was elementary compared to the final exam of their first day on their own.

Though new beginnings should be exciting, it’s the leaving something old that makes it so difficult.  Thankfully that first day of school I was teacher’s pet, when I allowed my kids to be five.
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LETTING GO By Lori A Alicea

As long as the hour and minute hand of your life’s clock keeps ticking in perfect time advancing those seconds, minutes and hours into days, weeks and years, change is ongoing requiring without permission slips,
our “letting go.”

Change can be hard.
New beginnings are framed in change.
Why must “today” require change when “yesterday” was so wonderful?

Nothing stays the same no matter how hard we want them to remain.
“Letting go” is opening our hand to receive the unknown.

God is the author of change when He reminds us:
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
…now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?…Isaiah 43:19 ESV

 The school bell has finally rung this steamy month of August, some mothers painfully deafened by its ring as it signals the heart wrenching debut of a lifetime of “letting go” events of their children.

Though that “first day of school” for my son and daughter took place twenty-five and thirty years ago, a mother can still recall in tears when her heart was left at the classroom door as teaching began without her.

 

“Letting Go” during that orientation of change called Kindergarten requires you to face the mirror’s reflection that your children are growing up.

With twelve years of school and college possibly down the road, a mother will be in shock the speed of her life’s clock until she relives another “first day of school” through her children’ eyes, as this grandmother’s seventh and eighth of ten grandchildren have filled their backpacks for Preschool.

 

“Letting Go” when you’re two remaining grandchildren have appointments with Preschool in two short years, is a sad reminder that the crib and high chair will soon be packed away for good, no longer needed when visiting their grandparents.

Growing up is supposed to happen, but you always want them to stay small and fit into your lap just a little bit longer.

Looking into your newborn’s face for the very first time, you can’t imagine “Letting them Go”.

You concede they won’t always need your hand to cross the street.
You concede they won’t always call for you in the middle of a night’s storm.
You concede they won’t always be daddy’s little girl or mommies best bud.
You just concede it will happen sometime tomorrow, in another life.

Tomorrow comes though and you find yourself “Letting Go” again when your children walk their isles of matrimony.

Growing up and getting married is supposed to happen.

We’ve prayed for their spouses since birth and couldn’t be more exuberant with what God “has joined together”, but “Letting Go” this time means “Letting Go” for good.

But mom and dad rejoice in the new beginnings of their children’s lives.

 

While our daughter Audra still waits for God’s perfect plan relating to her future spouse, Daddy continues to be that special man in her life until then.

David and Audra 60th birthday

“Letting Go” when Audra’s wedding day arrives might require daddy’s grown sons to walk along side him as he escorts his little girl down her isle, just in case an overcome father falls apart.

When a daughter leaves her father for another man in marriage, sometimes she takes with her a little boy who brought life to the home of two grandparents who helped raise him the last 3 1/2 years.

Ethan on wedding day

A little boy who learned to walk in your kitchen.
A little boy who helped you make coffee every night before bed.
A little boy who sat in your lap while eating dinner.
A little boy who called your name in the baby monitor.
A little boy who followed you everywhere in the house.

How do you smile at your daughter’s wedding and say good-by to a little boy who stole your heart on the very same day?

 

“Letting Go” the night before our grandson moved his blanket and pillow to another bed would be like no other.  Over a few scoops of ice-cream shared between a grandfather and a little boy, the weight of the moment fell when “Letting Go” meant”Letting Go” for good, and papa’s tears fell like rain that evening, flooding their bowls.

“Letting Go” is happening all around us.  Sometimes we need to take our eyes off our own lives and help someone else “Let Go” when they want so bad to “hold on”.

A year and a half ago we found our mother in a near death health crisis, forcing an address change to a nursing home while packing up her life.

You never think that day will come, and realize how unprepared emotionally you are when it does.  Mother raised six children, served us and gave us the best life she was capable of.  Now her seventy-eight years of life is reduced to sixty boxes of memories, memories we finally have the heart to go through to divide.

 

“Letting Go” a year and a half ago didn’t involve us letting go of mother, although did involve “Letting Go” of mother as we once enjoyed.

mom nursing home

Mother is many things to all of us.  Her tributes could fill a library of books.

In the “Letting Go”, God is so faithful to give us something to “hold on” to.  While unpacking the remains of our mother’s house, I found this Time Capsule of mother memorialized as seen through the eyes of her family, possibly written fifteen years ago.  Inside this simple jar are words to honor one woman who tirelessly gave and loved her family first, in an assortment of messages both funny and heartfelt titled:

“I Remember When”.

A few of the many messages, written from her grandchildren 15 years ago:

grandmas grandkids

I remember when you came pretty close to getting evicted from your apartment, thanks to your rowdy grand-kids.  Granddaughter Julie

 I remember when me and Candace spent the night one time, we were cooking with the Easy Bake oven and used your Tupperware stuff and melted it.  Sorry!  Granddaughter Amanda

 I remember how I always sat by you in church.  Grandson Phillip

 I remember when we would always play SKIPPO.  (Of course I would always win.)  Well, of course a couple of times I would let grandma win.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have learned how to play all those card games.  Granddaughter Candace

 I don’t remember when I started calling you Grandma, but I do remember you always making me feel like your grandson.  Grandson JT

A few of the messages written by her children 15 years ago:

I remember when we went to pick out my wedding dress and you cried.  Daughter Debbie

I remember going through my “hard times”, how you took me under your wing, loved me like your own daughter, and made me feel like a part of the family.  Daughter Jill

I remember the past eight years of our Tuesday night rituals.  You made me dinner and I washed and set your hair.  A time for us to share, laugh and become close as mom and daughter; as friends as well.  Daughter Denise

 I remember all the times when I would call you in the middle of the night just to hear your voice.  Of all the hard times I went through, you were always there to listen.  Never once did you make mention of what time it was.  Daughter Belinda

 “Letting Go” is different for every situation.  Give yourself grace if “Letting Go” is more painful than you thought and coming to terms is even harder.

We all want to hold on when God wants us to “Let Go”.
We want to understand when God doesn’t make sense.

But God’s ways and thoughts are not ours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
Isaiah 55:8

But in our “Letting Go” God promises:

…I will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace
;..
Isaiah 55:11-12

After closing up the Time Capsule of my mother’s life and savoring the honor greatly due her, I am reminded of a tribute, a gift to “hold on to” also while aching through the “Letting Go” when my first born left me for college.

A free spirit as depicted in his body art,

jakes tatoo

our son continues to run the race of his life through the many races beyond high school and never looked back, going from one finish line to the next.

jake finish line

The race of college.
The race of dental school.
The race of the military.

 

The finish line is somehow the starting line up for another race, with the miles between us getting further from the race before.

jake motorcycle

But after the gun went off to signal the race of college, God allowed me to find a letter buried in a bag of discarded stuff.  In this bag located in the garage filled from the bedroom our son vacated for good, I discovered a letter that would hug me from time to time in the moments I terribly missed him.

Dear Mom,

Now that I am graduating and getting ready to leave for college, I’ve been thinking about all the fun things I’ve done and the great things I’ve achieved.  When I think about them, you always are apart of them somehow.

We have had so many great memories together.  A few that come to mind are camping trips, baseball games and track meets.  Even though I never show it, I always loved you being there.  You have had such a huge impact on my life.  You have helped me to become the runner and man that I am today.

I just wanted to say thank you for always being there for me, and guiding me down the right path.  You have been a great mother and have done your job well.  I know being a single mother all those years weren’t easy, but you kept the family together and I’ll always love you for that. 

Love forever, Your Son

Embracing this honor allowed an exchange of the baton of my sorrow that year, for faith in the hands I entrusted my son to.

Letting Go” means letting God, and I think I can handle that.