August 11. First day of third grade. The sound of the alarm clock felt abrupt, almost as if it wasn’t meant to disturb the silence of the morning. I looked up at the ceiling, deliberately delaying the start of this day. A few seconds later, my daughter runs into the room and says,”Get up, Momma. It is the first day of school. We need to get ready.” I smiled, thinking how time always puts me in my place. Only a few years ago, I tiptoed into her room and placed my hands on her shoulders, trying to wake her from a deep slumber. Those days seem like a passing car on the highway, moving so fast that you don’t even really remember if it happened.

I know months in advance when the next school year will commence, but yet, on the first day of school, a sense of surprise greets my morning. Today, as I witnessed my daughter prepare for school, I felt like the kid who turns the crank of the Jack-in-the-Box knowing the clown will pop out any second and when it actually happens, shrieks likes she never expected it. I watched as my daughter showered, brushed her teeth and combed her hair. She picked out her clothes the morning before, without any prompting from me. On Sunday evening, she didn’t need any help making her lunch. As I sat on the couch and offered my assistance, she said, “I got it, Momma. I can make my sandwich.”

This morning she grabbed her lunch and water bottle and stuffed them into her backpack. I struggled to identify my role in my third grader’s preparation for school. My daughter proved so self-sufficient, it brought tears to my eyes. It made me spin a little, trying to recount all of the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years that seem to fall like a long line of dominoes. As soon as we reach another first, I realize the moments that appeared before are over now. In less than two years, she will enter a new era, the years of double-digits. The thought of this lingers always. My insides churn recalling the very first time I met my little girl. When the nurse placed her on my chest, I could not predict that motherhood would create such a whirlpool of emotions. I never thought that watching my daughter forge her independence would drop inside of me like a landslide.

Several thoughts hung over my head like power lines in the sky as I drove her to school. She asked me to take the fastest route to the school because she couldn’t wait to see her friends and sit at her desk. Before I could completely park the car, her door opened and she yelled, “Come on, Momma,” as I took some time to gather myself while she ran to the front of her school.

A few pictures later, she  waved goodbye and like that, another beginning becomes another last.