It’s Labor Day. My mother took me out to breakfast this morning. The restaurant was full of families, having their last morning out before the start of school and business as usual. I am having a very hard time with the start of school this year. As that “first day” looms closer and closer I have become sadder and sadder.
I had thought that once the one-year anniversary of the murders had passed, things would get a little easier. I’m not finding that to be the case. Perhaps it is because I was still numb at this time last year. The funeral wasn’t until August 23, because we had to wait for the coroner to release the little boys. One thing that making all those difficult arrangements does for the bereaved is give them something that they have to do. It’s easier that way. Besides, you are still in shock for the most part, and running on auto pilot.
All around me in the restaurant this morning, the talk was on preparations for the first day of school. Some were speculating about what teacher they would have, others were outlining all the last minute purchases that they needed to make: erasers and notebooks and a new set of shoelaces. Irritated or eager, they were all caught up in the ritual of getting ready for school. It’s one of the defining ceremonies that mark the end of summer and the beginning of fall.
I could see myself sitting down with Neal and Devon and Ian discussing the very same things. Devon would probably need another new pair of shoes, and would be eagerly looking forward to seeing all his buddies again. Ian would be getting ready to start kindergarten. At last he would be a real “big guy” and would be able to go to the same school Devon went to. He would have been impossibly excited, and would have told everyone he saw that he was going to start “real” school the next day. His pencil and his notebook and his backpack would have been displayed with pride and he would pester Devon with questions. Devon was Mr. Question, so it may have been good for him to have to play the part of Answer Man for a change.
But Ian will never start kindergarten, or pick out a new notebook and backpack. Devon will never get ready for the third grade and look forward to exchanging summer memories with his best friends. Neal won’t ever take them to their new classrooms and meet their new teachers. It hurts. Because, not only have they lost those things, I have lost those things. I will never have a photo of Devon with his front teeth missing. I won’t have a picture of Ian on his first day of school. There will be no traditional school picture of either of the boys to send to relatives in Christmas cards and to hold up against subsequent years as a measure of growth and change. The chart that I measured their hights on hasn’t had a new mark in over a year, and never will have. It breaks my heart.