Baby Bird

Today is Ruby’s first day of 6th grade. I’m still in shock.

Ruby 6th grade

This, despite talking about it all summer, getting the needed inoculation, her 4-hour (!) orientation to the new multi-classroom schedule in a new building, and back-to-school shopping.

She wound her hair into a single long caramel-colored braid. Can I say that’s something my hair never did unless under stringent circumstances, like brushing it within an inch of its life? She put on some of her new duds. She came down in a long-sleeved ruffled dark floral top, black leggings and boots. Never mind the temperature today should soar above 80 degrees, in spite of all the wildfire smoke clouding the sky.

“Mom, do you have to take a picture of me?” she asked. Her brown eyes pleaded for a way out. Sorry, baby. I do need to take a picture. I want to remember this moment. Time moves swiftly, like a bandit, stealing memories all day long, every minute of every hour.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe time only adds hours, which become days and years in a blink, building up like countless colored beads on an abacus. You can’t subtract the beads and go back. You can only enjoy the present, what is.

She really is a pre-teen. She stood against the wall, unsmiling. I didn’t want a mug shot. I asked her to smile. She smiled perfunctorily. That’s the best I’m gonna get, I thought. I snapped the photo.

Ruby hoisted her emoji backpack onto her shoulder. I saw her packing it up Monday afternoon. If I peeked inside, I would see her enormous pink binder. It’s stuffed with glue sticks, colored pencils, erasers and lined paper. Her mp3 player rests in a zippered pouch. No doubt she has a bottle of water aboard, too. Harder to see, but still there in the pockets and zippered crevices, would be her dreams. They shimmer like watercolors and sparkle like fairy dust. The future, they whisper, is unwritten.

Ruby girl, I pray you have a fabulous school year. We know you will uncover new worlds and new friends. We look forward to hearing all about it. Fly over your new territory, little bird. Get to know it all. I love you.