Pulling in to the parking lot on the first day of school, the manic movements of parents walking their children into the building, driving in circles looking for spots, children squeezing the blood from their mothers' hands; the intensity level is equal to that of the emotions inside the car. My oldest is bouncing in her carseat, unable to contain her excitement at finally going back to school. My youngest is radiating waves of anxiety. She is not ready to be a Kindergarten student - she thinks it means harder work and more expectations that she can't possibly live up to.
"I don't want to be away from home. Away from Mommy," she wailed at dinner last night.
Entering the building is akin to examining the emotions under a microscope. Confused parents search lists of student names inside the doorway, wishing they'd found the classroom before today. The sound of frightened cries travels down the hall and around the corner toward us. Front desk staff bow their heads to their computers, calculating account balances and straightening out glitches in the class lists as parents stack up behind the counter like Legos.
The classrooms are full of soothing adult voices, chattering children pushing their way through the bodies to find friends or scooting to the window to wave one last time to their parents. My right thigh is encircled by timid five-year-old arms. Her favorite teacher comes to greet her and instead of letting go, she buries her face in my yoga pants. I bend down to kiss the tip of her warm, soft nose and encourage her to hand her teacher the flowers we picked for the classroom this morning.
"Go sit with your friends, baby. There are Alison and Susan, see?" I smooth her hair and rub her back and assure her I'll be back to say hi at lunch.
The overripe blackberries and fading lavender have given up their oils to the rain overnight. The scents mingle and cluster at the edges of the golf course as I walk briskly past, attempting to exorcise my sadness and believe she'll be just fine. Already is, most likely.
"Gentlemen, you've seen my driver for the last time today," a burly 50-something in standard issue Ralph Lauren polo shirt addresses his buddies.
"Damn! 5,5,5,6! If Chris' ball marker hadn't been blocking my ball, I'd have had that shot," the tall skinny one complains with a smile.
These four have come together in a different way. They have an easy cameraderie, joking, piling all of their large bodies into one golf cart for the trip to the next tee. Their jovial exchanges lift my mood and I am pleased at witnessing this other kind of togetherness. One that is planned, pleasurable, fluid.
The houses that surround the golf course are of two kinds. There are some that are stand-alone, with three-car garages and wide, open floor plans. The others are duplexes made to look like single-family homes. The entrances are at opposite ends of the structure and the outside common wall is split down the middle so that each half has a different color scheme, making it look like two houses just ran into each other.
Some of the patios that face the golf course are open, with stepping stones beckoning friends to come down and sit at the table for a cool drink in the summertime. Others clearly chose to be on the course, but built tall fences to ensure their privacy. Most of the fences are pretty - cedar with embellishments like copper post-tops or alternating boards to allow some light. I find myself put off by the ones that aren't softened by climbing plants - clematis or grape vines. They seem so stark, so pointy, so harsh. These people don't want the world to intrude on their slice of life here.
After nearly four weeks of having houseguests I am celebrating my moving apart. My husband has returned to work and the children are back in school. I am watching their coming together with others anxiously, hoping that the transitions are smooth and they are able to embrace these other experiences and find pleasure. Today, I am not venturing out to connect with others in that way. I will stay behind my fence and find ways to embrace what is within. I have had enough coming together for now. I understand the anxiety my youngest feels - having to summon the energy to interact with still more people, anticipating their desires and responding to them is more than I want right now. I will sit in my courtyard, watching the coming together and moving apart of others and contemplate how we accomplish these things.