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source: Marjorie Lipan via Flickr
When I was in high school, I had to drive each day – once I was old enough to drive – through a toll booth. Back then, it was a straight-up 50 cents. (Our recent trip to Richmond revealed that it is now 70 cents – plus it didn’t take one of my first quarters, so we ended up tossing nearly a dollar at the thing. A travesty! Almost as bad as Ukrop’s being gone.)
Usually my co-pilot and I were armed with quarters or tokens, ready to throw the coins and get through quickly. But one day, I was alone for some reason. Maybe I wasn’t even going to school that day. I found myself approaching the toll booth and realized I had nothing but some loose changing floating around in the console of my Eagle Vision.
Quickly I gathered up as much as I could. And I remember vividly watching the numbers slide above the toll basket, praying that I could find enough to change to equal those 50 cents. I was tossing pennies by the fistful. And finally, breath escaped, I saw it click down to zero and the bar raise.
I don’t even know what happens if you don’t have those 50 cents. I bet it happens a lot more now than it did in 1998, although maybe EZ Pass-type things help.
I’ve felt a little bit of that same panic in these last weeks of summer.
School supplies were purchased, I’ve been stocking my freezer with items for school lunches, and Nana bought Libbie a new backpack. We’ve registered and before that vacationed and traveled and visited and swam and played to our hearts’ content.
And yet the day before Libbie started back to school, I still felt panicky. Unprepared. With first grade there wasn’t the same sense of preparation there was for kindergarten. There are no more phase-in days, no staying with her on the first day, nothing but a messy and loud thirty minutes of handing in paperback and handing over school supplies to her teacher.
Did I forget something important? She’s armed with summer projects, a reading log, a poster timeline of her short life. It’s all there. We have the first-day picture with her printed-that-morning-off-the-Internet sign. David’s registered and ready for his preschool class.
Perhaps it’s that the whole summer I have felt confused. Apparently having three kids at home full time will do that to you. I just always felt like I had more to remember than I could keep in my brain. I forgot deadlines, to mail things, to call back. Embarrassing and a little wretched.
When I was pregnant with Libbie, one of my coworkers told me that after he and his wife had their first child, they just wanted to get back to normal. Then when they had their second, they wanted to get back to normal – the one-child normal they’d found. But with kids, normal is an ever-fluctuating concept.
Right now, I am looking forward to returning to normal, knowing that it will likely be a different normal than last school year. Even though the kids are at their same schools on the same schedules, they are a year older. Joshua is a maniacal two-year-old instead of a toddling, babbling guy. Things will be different.
But I’m hoping soon I will feel like I have two quarters instead of a handful of pennies.