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The Last First Day
Stuff ‘N Nonsense 8-10-22
Kim Van Meter

My youngest child — my only daughter — started her senior year on Thursday, Aug. 4.

Words fail me. It’s a hot mess inside my head. I couldn’t string a coherent thought process to save my life at this moment because I feel every little thing, battered by the turbulent emotional storm of inevitable change and drowning in poignant nostalgia.

How has time passed so quickly?

Where’s the little girl with the wild riot of curls and an untamable spirit, who struggled to find her words but always found music?

Where’s the little girl who clung to her auntie’s leg on the first day of kindergarten but instantly made friends the minute we left the classroom?

That little girl is nearly grown — and this mama is struggling.

This isn’t my first rodeo but the hit feels harder than the first two.

Having experienced this before, I know how important it is to cherish every minute of what’s to come, even as each moment of sweetness comes with the potential of sour.

I know this year will pass faster than I can possibly imagine. But then, sometimes it feels as if life is on fast forward and there’s nothing I can do to slow it down.

I’ve already warned my daughter of the countless photos I will be taking because it’s the only way I can manage the bubbling panic that I might miss something worth remembering.

Despite the noise in my head, as I drove my daughter to school, I tried to share some useful, hard-earned wisdom.

My advice to her was simple. “Make the most of your year. You get one shot, no do-overs. Focus on your goals, your well-being and your happiness. Everything else will fall into place.”

That’s when she turned to me, admitting, “Mom, I’m scared.”

And I wanted to share, me too, but my issues weren’t hers so I found a different strength to ask, “Why?”

She answered in a small voice, “What if I fail?”

And I looked at her and I said, “Baby girl, you haven’t failed once in your life. Why would you start now? Even though life can be hard, it is the doing, the adventure, the ups and downs that make up the sum of our life. The hard times help us to appreciate the good times. And a life well-lived is my wish for all of my children. You got this. I believe in you.”

And here we are.

The last first day.

I will do my utmost best to appreciate every moment, from challenge to triumph, because unlike her, I know it doesn’t last. There will come a day when she misses the struggle of homework, the drama of teenage angst, and the sweet laughter shared between friends.

She has no way of knowing that this year spent may be the last she spends with people she’s known her entire life. Life will scatter people like seeds on the wind and the memory will be all that remains.

Savor every minute, my love, for these are golden times.

And they are magic.


Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.