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  • It's the first day of school.

    Not for me, but for my son. His first day as a freshman in high school, 1000 miles away from the place he's called home his whole life.

    He is being so brave, conveying nothing but calm optimism, while I am reverting to my own childhood fears and ways of coping:

    Waking up at 3am, afraid I'll oversleep the alarm.

    Waking up again at 5am from a nightmare that I overslept the alarm.

    Fretting about his clothing at 6am hung on the back of his door, while he is still sound asleep. Are those shoes really within dress code?

    Worrying about his locker on the drive in at 7:15am, while he is asleep again, in the car. Is he going to be able to switch out his books in time? Will they give detentions to new kids who don't know where they are going and who know absolutely no one? (Stomach ache forming...)

    Obsessing about that huge zit forming on his nose as I glance over at him in the passenger seat. Wondering if the other kids will notice and cast a wary eye on the newcomer. "Dear God" I am semi-praying, (in the manner of that teenage bible by Judy Blume I remember reading and re-reading at that age: "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret") - Really? Does he have to develop his first carbuncle on the center of his face on the first day of 9th grade?"

    Keeping an eye on the clock around 11am, after my second cup of coffee kicks in. What time was his lunch again? Who will he sit with? Has anything bad happened? Are kids being friendly to him?

    And maybe the biggest throw back of them all - I am craving peanut butter and jelly with a glass of milk for lunch. I sit at the kitchen table just now, slamming these anxieties down on my laptop, while eating a PBJ.

    The only times I have done this were when I was a) pregnant and b) stressed out. Really stressed out.

    For a lot of reasons this move has not been easy. It's not close to being over, and it is no way going smoothly for my husband and me. However, for our boy it seems to be a blessing, already. We've moved south, to northern Florida where the pace is slower and folks genuinely seem more friendly. To the ocean where a mama turtle decided to charm my son by laying eggs the day after his arrival, right outside our path through the dunes. To a school where, much to my delight, I have just learned a third cousin attends and is exactly the same age as our son. Even lives a few miles down the beach! Not just a possible new friend, but a new relation! The word catches in my throat.

    Our whole married life we have never lived near family. Never wanted to. Wanted NOT to, to be exact. But now things have changed. Past grievances are vague memories, cultural differences don't seem as marked and now even seem like blessings. The differences in political affiliation and accent seem novel. We say "you all" and they say "y'aaaaalll." And do I really care who anyone else votes for in the privacy of the ballot box?

    I really do not. Not anymore.

    So, in addition to having these distant family relations he can also spend down time in the ocean here, in water so warm it's more like a bath. A frothy bath. He can look for dolphins. He's been lucky with this too since we've arrived - pods of them appearing repeatedly within a stone's throw from him on his boogey board. I like to think of them as guardians. I always loved dolphins as a kid, or the idea of them really, as a kid growing up in the landlocked midwest.

    He has all of this here to discover and grow into. Things I myself dreamed about as a child but were, in reality, thousands of miles away from possible. Things in many ways I can't believe have become a reality for us now.

    So, school finished about 45 minutes ago and now I have two and a half hours left before I pick him up from rowing practice. He will be exhausted and probably tell me that everything was "fine" and answer "I dunno" about anything I inquire about in particular. He will fall asleep in the car on the way home.

    He will probably be too tired to want to eat dinner so I will make him bacon and eggs, which always register to him as as treat when served up for dinner. Supper, I mean. I need to get used to the fact that it is called supper here.

    As for me, I may just eat another PBJ, too nervous to whip up anything else for dinner, supper or otherwise.

    But first I might walk down to check on those turtle eggs. I think I can learn something from her - she laid her eggs and went back to sea. Her nest safely cordoned off by the sea patrol, we were lucky to see her tracks in the early morning. Evidence of her lumbering self having come up from the sea, perform her biological destiny and head back again.

    I wonder what turtles feel as they head back to sea? Are their prehistoric brains wired to have some version of PBJ to occupy them while they worry about the fate of their babies? Or is worry an emotion reserved only for humans? For those of us who don't lay 100 eggs to hatch but only can produce precious few offspring and therefore are doomed to fret about the smallest possible pains of their existence?

    "I dunno" I answer myself on this, just as I expect my son to answer me - when I arrive gleefully to pick him up from his first real day in his brand new school, on the first day as a bonafide high schooler.

    Pick him up and whisk him home to safety. Back to me. Now in only 120 minutes! (Not that I'm counting...)

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