Morning at Jericho: “I’m good, Ma!”

Two Chinese nannies, three Japanese mamas, one Chinese daddy, and Ellis and me reppin’ Korea waiting on a dingy couch and a couple chairs.

No, not the premise of a joke that racists relished telling when I was growing up, but the scene right outside Micah’s classroom this morning.

Today was the first OFFICIAL day of school after Orientation Week. Micah would be off on his own for nearly three hours.

I wasn’t sure if he was going to need me to stay. I had prepped him all summer with pick-up lines for snagging friends. Short and sweet: “Hi, I’m Micah. You wanna play?” He repeated it to me, trying to be a comedian. “Hi, Mommy, I’m Micah! You want to play weeth me?” while giggling uncontrollably.

It was Game Time. He plopped himself down on the carpet where some cute little kiddies were already engrossed in play. He beamed at a green bunny and took it to them. “I have at home. I have deess one at home!” Here I had been feeding him lines when he went with what he knew. Atta boy!

He was ready. My little birdie was ready to fly.

“Micah, Mommy wants to give you space to make friends and play on your own today at school. You’re gonna have so much fun. I promise I will be right outside if you need me, okay? Ellis and Mommy come pick you up later, OK? I promise I will be right outside.”

He barely acknowledged me as he moved on to play in different areas.

I wore Ellis and parked our doublestroller on the patch of dry grass out front, and walked around his school a countless number of times, like it was Jericho (though I wasn’t wishing that the walls came tumbling down, down, down, dooby dooby down).

Every now and then a child would run out looking for their adult. When a child came running out, either wailing or crying softly while trying to be brave, another child or two would follow like little ducklings, looking for their caretaker in the waiting area. In one case, one little girl was in such hysterics that the teacher went for a walk with her.

One older Chinese nanny was too cute. Her child came running out when she least expected it and she didn’t want to be seen so she tried to hide behind her friend, the other older Chinese nanny. They were both completely in plain view but in her desperation, she tried to act like a statue, then hide.

Ellis was extra jolly, thriving in my undivided attention and affection. Gurgling away and poking my eyes, booty-shaking and motorboating me. I didn’t mean to wear his growing body on me for the entire time on this sunny day but I wasn’t thinking straight as I thought I might have to run into the classroom at any moment. Ellis gladly took his morning nap on me, in deep, angelic slumber.

I lusted after a cold beverage, but I didn’t have my wallet on me and I wasn’t about to borrow money from new classmates’ mamas. It didn’t matter as I had no plans to leave the school’s general vicinity. Not on the first real day. After all, I had given Micah my word that I would be right outside. I was preoccupied, thinking the teacher would call my cell at any moment while I was walking ’round and ’round the block.

I kept thinking that when they were off to their next activity, Micah would cry. I wasn’t being entirely paranoid as this dude would NOT separate from me for months as a younger toddler when I tried to attend a weekly women’s Bible Study. Even after he turned two, it took months and months for him to attend Sunday School on his own. Now he practically runs to Sunday School, eager to see his favorite teachers.

Playground time was the finale today. I made sure I couldn’t be seen when the kids all walked together from the classroom.

Ellis and I hid behind a toolshed next to the school, near a dirt pile, to catch a glimpse of Son/Brother. (Please note: if you see a suspicious adult creeping around any given playground, before you call the popo, take pause and consider first that she may just be an anxious parent on her son’s first day).

I didn’t see him at first among a batch of kiddies, so I inched over a bit while still hidden, and there he was, chasing after a ball and looking like he was having so much fun. We later saw him riding on a red trike, looking like Christmas Day. He looked so happy! Like he ain’t never cried hysterically for mama before.

Ten more minutes ’til dismissal. I nursed Ellis while sitting on some cement steps in the blazing sun. My body will be aching come tomorrow morning. The Chinese nanny had returned and we just kept smiling at each other as her English was as good as my Cantonese.

When I entered the classroom to pick up my dude, he squealed with glee, “Mommy! Mommy! Wook!” as he showed me his art project. A mama who ended up having to accompany her little girl today, reported back to me that Micah had fully participated in each activity and had a blast.

I know he will have needy days and independent days but today was as perfect as they come.

Thanks for the precious memories, dear week of 09.09. Reminded me that while these are some of the most hair-pulling times, these are also some of the sweetest times of my life.

Plus, First son/Big Bro being off at school in the mornings couldn’t have come at a better time. Mr. EZ is knocking on the door of toddlerhood, protesting the stroller and highchair, spitting out foods that he doesn’t like, always needing to be on Mama, and nursing like he’s going to be cut off soon. Stage Five Clinger had to be carried on my back after Micah’s school today, all the way home while I strolled big bro in the half-empty double.

But don’t worry, my dude, I find separation anxiety the ultimate form of flattery and I will be right outside the nearest toolshed when it’s YOUR first week.

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First Day of School is For the Birds

Dear Micah,

As September hit and the weather cooled, back-to-school season was upon us. For our family, it was not BACK-to-school but the START of your first school ever.

You will get to know this about me soon: I am needlessly rebellious. Too much of anything and I run the other way. I try to act macho during movies, for instance, while the entire theater is bawling, or worse yet, I ask my girlfriends or your daddy if they cryin’.

So, as 09.09 approached, and I heard more buzz about school, school, school and so many First Day of School pictures all over Facebook, I may have started to rebel, without fully realizing it. Of course I filled out your many school forms ahead of time and prepared a shoebox full of items that your school requested but other than that, I wanted to go against the grain and make a smaller deal about you going off to your very first school ever, after hanging with Mommy nearly everyday since you arrived on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

We went on another trip this weekend to Miss J’s wedding. You were excited because you now have a taste for hotels, hotel pools, eating at restaurants for every meal, and sleeping with your entire family within touching distance. Our family partied hard at that very special wedding, your first taste of dancing on a dark dance floor with crazy adults who like to get down. Daddy and I changed you and Ellis into your pajamas for the long drive home, the night before your first day.

Upon returning late at night, I felt cool for not making this First Day thang too big. We weren’t at home marinating in it all weekend.

I didn’t even decide what you were going to wear until minutes before we left the house. I put you in a Montel Williams-looking Nehru-collared sky blue shirt with grey jeans and used one of your markers to make a “First Day of School” sign for pictures.

And we were off. Mama started strolling you (just you today, no Ellis). With the shoebox full of a change of clothes, tissues, underwear and a snapshot of you. (I apologize if anyone thinks your name is Anne Klein. It’s not like your friends can read anyhow.)

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To get to your school, we started on the same 17-minute stroll we had done a countless number of times to get to the library, your friend K’s apartment, and your playground.

I had been talking to you about school for months now. How your friend, A, is already there and how you’re going to have so much fun and how Mommy and Ellis will pick you up just in time for lunch. Maybe this wasn’t the big deal others were making it out to be?

But during this very ordinary walk, Mama started feeling an extraordinary welling up inside. Like a volcano’s rumble. Or a bloodstain growing larger and larger on white cloth.

I tried to get real macho, real fast.

As I strolled you, I looked down at you with your skinny neck and spiky hair, sitting there with your clear, wide eyes, observing the world as you always do, acting like you ain’t never been a no-necked, rolly baby. You asked about the ongoing construction and the men doing the work. “Mommy, they working today? They fixing street again?” Our usual topics of conversation.

And then a bunch of sparrows flew around us and sat down in a row on the porch of a building we always pass by.

Oh, Micah, those birds. They just about did Mommy in. Mommy wanted to sit down in the middle of the street and do the Korean drama wail, wrapping a white cloth around my head like a proper wailing Korean mama.

Do you know why those birds are so special to us?

Mommy’s Mommy, your grandma, used to walk Mommy to school, telling me how the chahm-sehs (sparrows) were flying and chirping just for me, Nature’s perfect escorts to kindergarden.

Fast forward to now, and this gang of sparrows was also chirping just for you as you went off to school with YOUR Mommy.

They had watched us walk this very walk when you were just a few months old and we had already endured about eight major snowstorms. Mommy was nervous about taking you out on the slippery sidewalks that weren’t paved completely but when she did, she was so happy to stroll you around, getting both of us fresh air into our lungs. Feeling so accomplished. Feeling like maybe she can do this motherhood thang even with the mood-crushing weather and no family around.

Mommy had asked her friends what I should do for you, other than nap you and feed you and change your many diapers. They told her to just show you around and talk to you. So Mommy would tell you what she saw on the walk, including the snowed in sidewalks and the birds who wanted to see Micah in his stroller.

Mommy had been rebellious up until this very morning because you going to school WAS a huge deal and I didn’t trust the floodgates to come crashing down. I find myself doing that these days, Micah, not being able to cry because there might be too much in there.

Whether I made a big deal of it or not, here we were. So many moments flashing before my eyes. All the sweet “i wuv you, Mommy” moments, not the moments where Mommy has a pool of urine and chicken broth in her Crocs from an eventful afternoon.

I love you so much that if I pause to think about just how much, I feel like my heart will stop. I still cup your smooth face in my little hands, just like I did when you arrived brand new. I just can’t believe you were the little blueberry in my womb.

And I have to admit, it’s been REALLY HARD as you are not a baby any more and you want to do things your way.

You drive me crazy some days, when you don’t listen, and I have gotten so frustrated after how many spills and how many times you ask me for something after I tell you “No!” But you will always be my scrawny newborn who ballooned into a big-cheeked Gloworm, then became a sweet big brother at 22 months old. My firstborn. My baby.

Always remember that birds chirped just for you today as I took you to your first school, though sometimes, they sure did sound like they were chirping, “You ain’t hward, you ain’t hward!” in Mommy’s direction. Mommy got too verklempt to point it out during the walk, so here it is in print.

I still haven’t been able to cry but maybe your Mommy is growing up, too. Or the volcano will erupt next week when Orientation week is over.

P.S. I forgive you for asking if there was a baby in Mommy’s belly last week. I hope you can forgive me for greater offenses, like yelling at you and saying I want to be back at the office because you won’t listen. God bless you while you are at school. You’re all mine again after a few hours each morning. I love you to the moon and back.

my li'l Montel:  don't blow up my spot, ma!

my li’l Montel: don’t blow up my spot, ma!