I asked my kids to text their “first day of school” pictures to me.
Because some habits just die hard. The kids, after all, are in college now.
Christian, at 22, started his first day of his senior year at the end of August. Bergen, 19, began his sophomore year just last week.
When they were little, first day of school pics took place in our yard, in front of the pine tree while the boys squinted into the sun. Recently purchased backpacks peeked out from behind their shoulders. New shoes laced tightly onto their feet. The excitement of a new year reflected in their eyes. (Or, OK, fine: Maybe it was just the sun.)
We’d take the picture, then walk to the bus stop — meeting the Richardsons and the Shockmans and the Giffords and the Schmidts along the way. Then we’d snap a few more pics with neighborhood friends while they waited. And one last photo as they boarded those big steps up into the yellow school bus.
Every fall. Year after year.
And so, as my kids started their first days of school this year, I asked for back-to-school pictures.
If I’m being honest here, and you know I am, I’ll admit that I wasn’t really asking for pictures to document the start of a new year. That may have been the case when my boys were younger, but now I have a different motivation: I just want to see them.
See their faces. See their eyes. And, sure, see what they chose to wear on their first days.
For those of you whose kids are living at home — who are packing their backpacks and eating their breakfasts and brushing their teeth before walking out the door in the morning — this may seem unfathomable: That there will come a time when these kids get themselves up and out of bed and ready for school and head out the door, and you don’t witness any of it.
But I will tell you this: It happens.
They go out that door and meet with their professor or their boss and talk to new friends and meet deadlines and go to the store and laugh at a joke and feel happiness and feel hurt and make 100 choices a day. And you aren’t there for any of it. Instead, you’re picking up your phone in another place, maybe another town, maybe another state, and typing: “How’s the day going, honey?”
And you keep working or playing or shopping or cooking or gardening or whatever it is you’re doing, but you’re checking your phone, too. Like someone who’s waiting to learn whether their lotto numbers really are the million-dollar winners. And when they write back – “good” or “busy day” or “have a test!” — well, jackpot.
So imagine — imagine if you will — getting not only a few words, but a picture. A photograph of that beautiful child you raised. That child who stood in front of the pine tree, year after year, squinting into the sun. That child who boarded those big steps into the yellow school bus as you called out, “Have fun! Work hard! I’ll see you after school!”
Imagine them being all grown up — but also being such good sports that they see your text (“Send first day of school pics!”), and they do it.
The 22-year-old (blue shirt) sends a sleepy picture from his desk, writing, “Just woke up.”
The 19-year-old (maroon sweatshirt) sends a reflection selfie in his dorm mirror, with the words, “Not many places to take a photo in the room!”
And let me tell you: Those pictures are the best things you’ll see all week. So good that you look at them again and again. Show your sister when she visits. Send a copy to your mom.
Those little boys, all grown up.
Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Tuesdays. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.