mama mondays: first day of school 2012

Nicholas Salonen finds his station on the first day of school 2012, second gr

“…The world tips away when we look into our children’s faces. The days flood by. Time with children runs through our fingers like water as we lift our hands, try to hold, to capture, to fix moments in a lens, a magic circle of images or words. We snap photos, videotape, memorialize while we experience a fast-forward in which there is no replay of even a single instant.” — Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance (A Memoir of Early Motherhood)

This week, I had a chance to meet Louise Erdrich, the renowned American writer who claims North Dakota as her grounding place. The event which brought me onto her path for a brief time also presented the chance to purchase her memoir, which I’ve been curious about since my own early motherhood years.

Louise’s writing is rich and eloquent, and so, I’ve gathered from my real-life glimpse, is she. Not rich in a material way, but in the way she experiences the world and shares it with others. Her writing and expressions are a gift and skill and treasure wrapped into one, and I will be sharing more about my fleeting chance to be in her presence in the coming days.

For now, I’ve discovered these words in her memoir; words that, to me right now, speak to this first week of school 2012, when I’ve tried, but failed, to truly memorialize. As Louise has made explicit, the undertaking is elusive. And yet we still try to hold the moments as our children grow up and out and, soon enough, into the big world they are destined to discover if things work out as they ought.

The elementary boys drop their boxes of Kleenex to pose for the first-day photo

It is a chore each year to gather up everyone on this most exciting of days and plant them, for a moment or two, in front of the house for the traditional picture-snapping session. My four youngest are, for the most part, ready and willing. They know the drill. And if I were to settle on just having the four of them, almost every time we’d come out with a darling account of the morning — red shirts, white shoelaces and first-day grins.

But I am not content with this. I have five, not just four, children, and until the oldest is completely away and out of sight, too far from my grasp to nudge over, I will invite him into the circle and try, no matter how futile, to freeze time.

This one must be done quickly, with my cell phone, despite the protests so visible on his face; expressions saying loudly he’d rather be anywhere but right here, right now. And all of the attention he wishes to will away is drawn to him, an ironic reversal of intention.

The dog sneaks in at the last moment, not wanting to be left out.

My insistence on the real thing means exposing our imperfections, and that’s okay. Perhaps my oldest is the most honest of them all, or maybe it’s just a secretly-agreed-to teen pose of near-flight.

Either way, it’s a new year, and this year, anyway, everyone is accounted for. And despite all the heartache that comes with motherhood, I love them all and am grateful for another school year and the great promises it holds.