I dressed Patrick yesterday morning in his red rugby-striped shirt.
Generally, he adheres to his public-school open-to-interpretation uniform that it is only loosely followed by the pre-K set. Probably a dozen times, I have let him wear something other than the white (now white-ish) polo topper that fits requirements. On those occasions, he always picks the red-and-white. His favorite.
I dropped him and went on to other things - a breakfast meeting, then proctoring an AP test at the other school. I marveled at the relative calm of the adolescents taking that test. It was the final move of their high school careers - once that last bubble was filled in, stray marks erased, cell phone collected from me - they were gone. Off to the Rest of their Lives. And yet none seemed panicked, or even particularly plussed.
Post-testing, I collected my daughter so we could go run a quick fun errand. We lollygagged, loading our cart with sugar cookie supplies. Then we left to retrieve Patrick, who I felt had lingered too long at after-care.
We got to his school and Annabeth asked if she could go in barefoot. She had stripped off her confining running shoes. I said, well sure. Just into the cafeteria. Just picking up a brother.
I walked in a few beats behind her.
Swarms of adults. A buffet. Little boys in top hats, pastel shirts, black pants, sparkling blue bow ties. Little girls in perfect spring church dresses, floral prints.
I was confused for a flash of a second, two, three. Annabeth, beside me in her bare feet, said, "wow. What's this?"
It had been the show. The Show. The end-of-the year celebration to move them all to kindergarten. Proceeding arm-in-arm. Singing, dancing, acting. Patrick had been, apparently, the Big Bad Wolf.
And I. Had Not. Been. There. Girls in dresses. Boys in ties. Gussied parents taking pictures. Siblings in finery eating from the parent-provided potluck buffet. Patrick in his day-stained red and white rugby, dirty shorts. Running shoes. Annabeth in bare feet. Bare. Feet.
I had received notice of this event. An email. Another. Maybe even another. Each time they would come over my phone I would glance at them, intending to parse later. I thought - since one called it a graduation celebration - it was on the last day of school. Next week. I never slowed down, read. Planned. Scheduled.
Recognizing what had happened, I wandered the small crowd wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Stunned. I snapped at someone, a friend. I blathered, in shock. People intercepted and said things like "he was wonderful!" and "I think I got a picture of him" and "It's OK, someone videoed it."
I left briefly, to cry in my car. I sobbed. Pulled myself together. Returned.
To be absolutely fair to myself, Patrick didn't show any concern. Genuinely. He was bopping around with a blue balloon. He said, "It's OK, mama!" Though he expressed disappointment that he didn't get to wear the sparkly tie.
We numbly ate chicken fingers. People said "let it go." And I felt so --- inadequate.
Things have been lost lately - falling off my radar, or under it. I have been going through the motions, sometimes frantic, always preoccupied. School is out soon - and the month has been a mess of pieces and parts.
I don't do this well. I have committed to things next year - big things. I will learn again, this summer, how to use a calendar (I can't figure out when I stopped, or why the very idea of a calendar intimidates me now.)
I blew up later, at night. For imagined infractions of everyone else. But, of course, it was all about that Show. My error. My disconnect. My absent calendar. My crushing love for my youngest. Missing his last baby moment.
We are right here. At the end of the school year - a year rife with last-minute saves: permission slips, lacrosse games, trumpets, leotards. Dirvishes that whirled. Mornings that were late - and often a surprise (as in, SURPRISE! It's morning!) Right here, I am feeling ill-suited for all of it. Overwhelmed, with holes in my thoughts and holes in my day that allow for neither accomplishing nor resolving.
And before venturing to do this again, I would like, just-for-me, a test. An end of the year AP- equivalent that lets me know that I am suited well enough. That I am as good as the next guy and getting better. I would like to darken my bubbles, erase my stray marks, blow off the dust of the mistakes removed, turn in the test and move on. Matriculate. And find out mid-July if, in fact, I have received the desired four and will, after all of it, get credit for this cobbbled-together year.
And if not, I would like to take the year off. Re-group. Maybe study abroad. Come back when I am feeling more mature, and Ready.