Okay, their responsiveness, and excitement made me a little uneasy. I've never known kids to be so excited about going back to school. Afterall, they had an eventful summer. With weekly BBQs, bike riding, ice cream treats, parks, and pool fun attending basketball camp and traveling to Nashville definitely heightened summer.
We seemed to be coasting until another death hit the family - rocking us. This time it was my very best-friend/our cousin Larry who they referred to as uncle Larry. Man, I tell you, it's hard trying to explain something to children that I'm battling to understand myself.
Visibly shaken, Rae took it the hardest. Her primary concern was our cousin's children, his wife and the family he left behind. Innocently gazing with tears in her eyes she asked: "Who's going to take care of his little girl."
We hit the road on a Friday. Heading down 75 N to Tennessee, we joked and giggled the drive. It was our fourth road trip. The kids were heading to stay with my/our sister a month. Luckily, my sister and her husband have children close in age. They enjoyed themselves, learned a lot about each other, fought, laughed and created epic memories.
July was my first break apart from them. I didn't do a thing. There were major plans that turned into sleeping, resting and woosahing. Work was busy anyway.
A month later, they came back unapologetically barging into my space. Well, I mean OUR space. As fast as I remembered responsibility-free life they were back - fighting, talking my ear off and begging for snacks. We only had a day and a half to prepare for school. They couldn't stop talking about it and beamed with excitement at the thought of it.
"My backpack is cooler than yours, Rae. I have one like Jamari," shouted Zae. Jamari - his older nephew who he idolizes and visited in Nashville.
"I don't care you, stupid third grader. That's why you're only in 3rd," defended Rae.
Okay, be cool and don't call anyone stupid I said. The chatter went on and on through the day as they unpacked supplies, and treats that I stashed in their backpacks.
School shopping is insane, and the supply list was bananas but the look on their faces - rewarding. After unpacking, Rae had an ah ha moment. Reminding us of school in Chicago vs. now, she said they were always late, never had supplies and wore the same clothes, daily. Rae hated how they lived in Chicago and was happy with life in Georgia. Tucking away tears, (stemmed by fear of the unknown) frustration and joy I told her she deserves everything amazing coming her way.
First day of school
I woke up early to make lunch and write affirmations on their mirror. Besides, I needed extra time to get used to a new morning routine. "I can't be late. I'm still new on this job, and nobody calls me sick unless you're pronounced dead. "
Yep, I said this to them. Confident, calm and full of life we walked to the bus stop.
They both had a new pair of Jordans. I could tell these boosted their confidence. I didn't buy them and was glad Xae's mentor did. Truthfully, I couldn't afford shoes at the time, and it killed me inside. "You can't start school without a new pair of kicks Rahk," he explained as he dropped the shoes off.
The kids must have told him they didn't have new shoes. Either way, I could have kissed him! I was grateful and battling insecurities in asking for help.
So, they had shoes! Awkwardly watching them, I stood back as they greeted friends to talk about summer. New to this parenting thing, I'm usually uncomfortable at the bus stop around the other parents. And, I'm the only Black one.
My contributions to conversations on real estate, overseas vacations and projects in the city are always limited. My wedding finger isn't blinged out, my (invisible) husband and I don't take turns going into work late - to participate in school activities, and I don't own one of the large houses surrounding our little apartment complex. I'm also confident that I'm a couple of tax brackets under them. Not that any of that defines me, but at times it's hard to relate. However, I smile, listen and participate as much as possible. Rae and Zae's happiness keeps my focus, focused. I am proud of where we are and excited about where we're going.
"We went to Disney World, and China this summer! What did you guys do?" One of the kids asked.