Annual Rituals: Back To School

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Photo by Vlad Bagacian on

“It’s not fair!”

I exclaim to Ammu as the pile of hand-me-downs for Laddu grows in height.

“That poor child always wears old stuff.”

Ammu is silent as she chews on my remark. In a voice that is careful she says “No, you do actually get her new things.”

I let go of my mock outrage and we laugh. I am in Ammu’s room parsing through each piece of clothing the twins own and either keeping them or adding them to the reuse pile. There is another pile that is smaller, the ones to be thrown with the trash. The faded, worn out, riddled with holes capris and shorts and tee shirts. The ones that were loved to death literally. I sigh as I look at that pile, the memories thick and fast obscuring any tears that may fall.

This is our annual ritual. In the week before school starts we metaphorically throw out the old and bring in the new. It is that time of the year when I really realize how much my children have grown physically. The clothes that fit them well at the end of the school year now feel snug, the pants have ridden up past their ankles. Their hair now swings below their shoulders. Their feet now fit shoes and sandals two sizes larger. A few more months and I will be shopping in the Juniors or the women’s section for footwear.

The changes have been slow, creeping in when I have been occupied with other immediate things like policing them or asking them to stop playing zookeepers. They have snuck in on me while I have been cooking, cleaning, keeping the home. They have filled out in more ways than I can count.

In a day my older girls will enter fourth grade, their nascent child-like bodies will leave fourth grade as little women. There is something about the physical growth that intimidates me. All the possibilities and all the fears descend on me while I make piles of clothes and bags of shoes.

The youngest, Laddu sits by my feet, looking eagerly for clothes she can add to her pile. Akka’s clothes that will one day be hers. “More!” she demands while I try to tell her that it is not necessarily a good thing for her.

All morning while I packed her older sister’s backpacks stuffing them with pencils, glue sticks, earbuds and, ballpoint pens, she walked up and down, stuffing her Moana backpack with her favorite things. A stuffed toy, a coloring book and crayons, her lunch bag and water bottle. As I put her sisters’ filled bags by the doorway, she dutifully put hers next to theirs.

In my excitement and anticipation of my school going children’ growth, I have overlooked the youngest. The one who bosses everyone around. She holds her own in a conversation. She fights for her space and has decidedly strong views on everything from food to music. She claims her space at the table knowing full well that she is competing against the twin might.

In the mornings when I wake I see her next to me, her impossibly long eyelashes fluttering in sleep, her innocence a balm to my maternal soul. I linger a bit longer than I should, knowing the years will sharpen her features and there will be a day when I will wake up and there will be no sleeping baby next to me.

Autumn is around the corner, change is on the way and I am ready as can be.

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