Somehow another school year is upon us already, pressing its Type A face with its schedules and time tables and homework into our darkened windows where we are oversleeping. Two days after arriving back in Houston from our East Coast Summer, I felt grateful that we were able to invade my parents' house for 6 weeks. Every inconvenience associated with suitcase living and crowded beds was dwarfed by all the fun moments spent with family and friends, doing old, familiar Virginia things and having the opportunity to try out new ones (like taking a trip to NYC). It is nice to be in our home again but I think we will be summer travelers from now on.
Will is the first to head back, with his first day tomorrow. Andrew starts the following week and Porter the Tuesday after. Will is excited to start 2nd grade and is not put out at all by the fact that his brothers get an extra week off. He will begin his first season of flag football and his second year with the Fiddling Lions. His goal is to get his name of the principal's list displayed in the school hallway. We think the way to do this is straight As. He got straight As last year but for some reason they don't include 1st graders. His plan to help anyone feeling left out is to simply ask, "Want to play?" I figured cementing a catch-phrase in their brains to reach out to others is better than long lectures on kindness. At this stage, playing together is the cure-all.
Porter will start Kindergarten at Pines Presbyterian Preschool rather than joining Will at BHE. It is a shorter day running from 9-1 and will give him more time to slow down and be little. There will only be 10 other kids in the class and he will have two teachers. He has become very fascinated with Will's violin and is eligible to enroll in the BHE violin program with Will, so, against my lazy inclinations, he will participate in that, too. It will be a pain for me, but I am hoping that I am striking while the iron is hot musically. I think it will be a wonderful year for him. I am glad I figured out a way to win back that extra time that his April birthday steals, even if only for one year, since he will finish high school with all the other 2010 babies. For this year, at least, we get to a few extra hours at home where he can play with Claire and make Charlie smile and be part of the at-home orbit.
Andrew is officially old to me now. I am cheating time in two ways here: first, his late birthday puts him behind a school year (when I was his age I was entering 5th) and second, the sweet nature of his all-boys school keeps him that much more innocent. But all my cheats notwithstanding, he is still over half-way on his years at home. I feel like the word "years" is itself a form of deception. It is not marking off a very long chunk of time, and if it weren't for the fact that it is how long it takes the planet to revolve around the sun, I would propose a different measure.
Andrew has agreed after much encouragement to participate in x-country. He went running with me this summer and was far more capable of the four miles we did than I was. I am no athlete, but I had a bit of endurance. My dad was the same way, and it seems like Andrew is, too. While I am a little nervous that he will hate the sport as applied in Houston in August, he seems proud to announce his anticipated participation so far.
He gave a talk in primary today. The assigned subject was "Miracles." I had totally forgotten until this morning, but we sat together and prepared it fairly easily. I am trying to make everything formulaic for them so they can grasp how to go about things in their lives better. I always felt so clueless and lost. After he introduced himself and defined the term, he launched into two family stories illustrating the principle. One was about George Q Cannon's mission to the Hawaii at age 18, where he experienced the gift of tongues and was blessed to taste as sweet a bitter root he had found disgusting. The second was the story of my dad's conversion. He made it sound like he had been raised in the Church but had resisted the Gospel, but the point still came across well. His whole life he had been firmly atheist. It is hilarious to think of non-believing little boy, but he really never believed in God or Heaven or life after death. After my mom joined the church, the missionaries became a fixture in our home and he was eventually baptized. I had always suspected that he had just joined to support my mom and us, and under the theory that there was no harm in living a Christian life even if the whole thing was silliness. But when my friend was investigating the church during my high school years, he shared an experience he had had with the missionaries. He said that during one discussion, the missionary turned to him and said, "Can you not feel the Spirit that is in this room right now?" My dad could not reply because the Spirit was so strong that he was totally overcome.
That story stunned me. Up until that point, I really believed my dad was a "no harm in going" kind of member. I have always been grateful to know of this spiritual experience he had. We need to know these things about one another. Sometimes we need to borrow light to keep ours from snuffing out. I realize that it sounds like just another conversion story, remarkable to the people involved, but not miraculous. But to me, knowing my dad, knowing how logical his mind was and how skeptical (he once said he didn't really like reading the D&C bc he felt like it was just Joseph Smith telling people what to do), the fact that he felt the Holy Spirit testify of the Gospel in such a way that rendered him speechless, well that is a miracle. I am grateful for the witness it has provided to me and that it can provide to my kids, who loved him so much.
Andrew did such a great job and I marveled out how much he had grown in the course of a year. The most coherent part of last year's talk was when he, after mumbling some sentence fragments, crumbled up his sheet of paper and tried (and failed) to make a basket in the trashcan. He was trying to be funny and funnel away his embarrassment back then, but what a difference from today. One of his primary leaders asked if she could take a photo of the notes he brought up with him. I asked him which part she seemed to be interested in and he replied, over his pearler bead project he was making for me, "Probably the end because that was the best part. Mom." I had written out the ending for him to read since he had trouble winding it back down. We are as close to his leaving on his mission as we are to him calling out "Aaami, are you?" and hooking his little arm around my neck when we read books on the floor.
Wherever it is that the time goes, there are some pretty adorable little memories swirling around, too. I wish I could visit.