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A new day for the school year

By Megan Beyer

We need another hot water heater.

When you give birth to two girls, three years apart, you know that this day is going to come.

We woke up for the first day of school year to a strange quiet. They were already awake. No cries for socks, or stomping around for ribbons. Just a calm pitter-patter and a blast of steamy water from the bathrooms.

My husband and I looked at each other -- this is the year.

They are eleven and fourteen. This is their first week of school. They don’t squabble. They have morning showers, read the paper, eat the eggs and go out the door. They wear reasonable clothes and they say reasonable things. They are complete strangers.

I thought I would not miss the chaos that characterized the last ten years of school mornings. It was the clash of fire and ice over snap, crackle, pop. Sibling rivalry meets the morning melancholy. One would come in at five to spend the last hour sleeping with us, the other would refuse to get out of bed. One would be finishing a science project, the other would be starting a new hair do. One got the last of the right cereal, the other took the wrong vitamin. One lost a permission slip. The other found a spider. Good Morning! There was always a crisis.

You never knew where it was coming from, but come it would, throwing the quiet hours into races up the stairs, darts to the car and back, doors slamming, brushes wielding, books hiding, phones ringing. By 7:20 it would all be over -- car packed with homework, books, pink bows and grim faces. The house would sigh relief. All that commotion, and the only evidence was milk at the bottom of the cereal bowls, strewn comic sections, and the permission slip on the floor in the hall.

Today the bowls are there, and the newspaper. But there is no relief. Sorry to see them go. Sauntering toward the new day with their washed hair and their new shoes, they barely look back, while my eyes can barely let go.

As I sip my coffee in the silence I always craved, I am unnerved by the civility of this new day. Could it be we will have this efficiency all year long? Could it be that we will simply get our clothes on, eat a good meal and walk out the door to face the day? Will we not push each other’s buttons and button each other’s shirts? Is the noisy revelry of shrieks and shoves at an end?

I’m not sure. But we will definitely need a new water heater.

Mmo : october 2006

Megan Beyer is a columnist and regular panelist on the PBS women's talk show,
To the Contrary.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy positions of the MMO or its staff.
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