I was doing okay until we hit the shoe section.
We're back-to-school shopping with the other procrastinators; school starts tomorrow. We pick through the remains of school supplies, lunch-sized snacks and new outfits.
Greta had a growth spurt over the summer; she grew more than an inch in one month, and she needs
new shoes. We steer the overflowing cart into the kids' shoe section, and begin hunting through pink sandals and glittery sneakers.
Not one pair of shoes fit. Not the kid size 3. Not even the 4s.
We end up in the women's section - the women's section - and find a pair of size 5 1/2 clogs that fit just right.
Greta sashays up and down the aisle, a hand on one hip, a proud smile plastered across her face.
I feel like an old hand at this back-to-school stuff, so I didn't think I was going to be emotional about school this year. But somehow, right under my nose, she has blossomed into a striking young woman.
She flicks her hair over her shoulder and does a little spin. "What do you think, Mom?" When did she start calling me Mom? What happened to Momma?
I manage a smile, and a quick nod. "Perfect," I choke.
This long-legged beauty, with a hint of a womanly curve in her hip, is my little girl.
In the car on the way home, she prattles on about the usual things, then grows quiet for a moment before saying, "I'm a little nervous about tomorrow. Not a LOT nervous, but I have the caterpillars-in-my-tummy feeling. It's kind of like a happy-nervous, I guess."
I tell her I remember the feeling so well, how the scent of a new pack of pencils made my stomach churn with nervous anticipation.
We get home, unload the school supplies, and Greta sets about packing her backpack for tomorrow.
Finn shuffles in the room, dragging his careworn blanket in one hand and his brand new backpack in the other. "Will you help me wif my backpack too, Momma?"
Oh my God, I think with a start, my baby is getting on the bus. Somehow this milestone - my youngest starting Kindergarten - has been relegated to a mental back shelf, lost in the shuffle of Second Child Syndrome. He curls up on my lap with a contented sigh, and rubs my arm distractedly.
"Are you excited to start big-kid school?" I ask.
"Sure," he says.
"Are you nervous?"
He is quiet a moment., "No," he says, "Sissy told me all about it. And my fwiends will be there. And I have the same teacher Sissy had, and she's willy nice."
I rock him gently in my lap, and I think about how it's another beginning, having both my kids in school. Sending Greta off to school every year was cushioned by Finn's presence, of having a child around most of the time.
When they were small, I pined for this moment, for the freedom of unencumbered days, for the chance to focus on me again - my goals, my career, my identity.
Now that it is here, I'm ambivalent. What is this next chapter of life going to look like? I am contemplating a job that would accommodate mother's hours but get my head back in the working game. It hasn't been formally offered to me, yet, but the possibility exists that I will re-enter the work force sometime in the near future.
Closing my arms around Finn, I inhale his earthy boy scent and think about how I feel about it all.
I have the happy-nervous, caterpillars-in-my-tummy feeling, too.