It’s 5 o’clock on a Wednesday, and this early evening hour finds me standing in a schoolyard. Between the bright, white grids of newly-painted foursquare and hopscotch courts staring up at me and the smell of freshly-scattered wood chips tickling my nose, it’s no wonder I’ve just been momentarily transported back to my childhood. Although no one is here other than me, I can picture how this playground looked and sounded just a few hours earlier: The streak of red, green, and navy uniform-clad children filled with happy smiles, the squeak of bare skin against the slide, the metal clang of high-flying swings, and the loud peals of unfiltered, easy laughter.
A few freshly-fallen leaves dance around my feet, and although the breeze that lifts them is warm, there is a slight crispness to it—a good reminder that the official start of fall is just around the corner.
I start a brisk pace toward the door, eager to get inside and pick up my daughter, Zoey. It’s been five days since I saw her last, and I can’t wait to hear how her second week of first grade has been so far.
I’m only a few steps into the school before I see her. She’s sitting at a long table, coloring with friends, busy concentrating on her drawing. As Zoey looks up to select a new crayon, she notices me and a gleeful smile spreads across her face.
“Mommy!” Zoey cries out. She tosses her crayon down, stands up, and makes her way around the table.
When the direct path to me is free, she takes off running. As Zoey flies across the room, I have just enough time bend down and hold my arms out. She jumps into them and wraps me in a hug, squeezing me so hard I momentarily lose my breath.
“I’m so excited to see you,” she squeals.
“Oh yes, peanut,” I agree. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all day.”
After a minute of loving hugs, I finally set her down. Zoey skips over to grab her backpack while I sign her out, and then moments later, we’re hand in hand, walking back out into that schoolyard. Zoey is chattering away, telling me all about her week and about all the fun things she is learning. But when I open the door to the car, Zoey hesitates for a second.
“Come on,” I say, pointing inside. “There’s cars driving past us, and I want you safe.”
Zoey finally climbs in, then turns back toward me.
“Mommy?” she asks.
“Yeah, Z, what’s up?” I answer, wondering what’s going on. Her smile is still affixed to her face, so I’m assured nothing is wrong.
“I was thinking maybe you could sit back here with me for a few minutes so I can keep telling you about school.”
Without a word, I slip into the car beside her and shut the door behind me. To me, there is nothing more important right now than sharing in this excitement with her.
For twenty minutes we sit together in the backseat and talk. Zoey pulls out page after page of letters, numbers, and artwork from her backpack. She shows me her homework for the week that’s already almost finished. She sings the song she learned about how, when two vowels “go walking, the first one does the talking.” We laugh. We talk.
For the rest of the week, the two of us settle into a happy little routine. Zoey wakes up bright-eyed and eager to head into school. She sharpens her pencils in the morning and makes sure she has a snack in her backpack for what she calls her “learning energy.” She dives headfirst into homework after school, and the two of us practice addition, reading, and counting change while I make dinner at night. And every day, after I pick her up, I sit in the backseat of the car, wrapped up in Zoey’s joy and passion for this new adventure in her life.
Not only is her excitement palpable, it’s downright contagious: Being surrounded by her enthusiasm makes me want to go to first grade.
* * *
On Friday, I tuck Zoey into bed and give her a kiss goodnight a little earlier than usual. I can tell that her busy week of navigating the uncharted territory of first grade, discovering the expectations of her teacher, and learning new things has left her exhausted.
“I’m really tired, Mommy,” she yawns. Zoey pulls the covers up higher and then burrows herself underneath.
“I know, Peanut,” I say. “It was a long week. And new things like this would make anyone pretty tired.” I smooth the hair back from her forehead and lean forward to kiss her brow one last time.
“But I can’t wait to go back next week,” Zoey says. “So that’s a good kind of tired, isn’t it?”
I can’t help but agree with her.
* * *
Minutes later, as I emerge from Zoey’s room, I realize that her kind of tired is the kind of tired I’d like to be. Her exuberance for this new beginning in her life makes me want to discover my own. I want to find something new that will bring excitement to my days, and I want that excitement for something—for anything—to bring a renewed purpose to my life. Although I found a form of this almost a year ago when I started this blog, I feel like I want something more. I want to start something new again.
I want to find the adulthood equivalent of first grade.
And in this moment, I realize feeling joy and passion and excitement (or even being surrounded by these things) are such amazing, magical things—for these feelings can be the powerful catalysts for the growth, adventure, discovery, and most importantly, renewal that we need in our lives to keep moving forward.
So even though I, too, have had a long week just like Zoey, I feel like my own spirit has been renewed. I make my way into my room, sit down at my desk, and open my computer. I type into the wee hours of the night, writing down all of the thoughts that are swirling around in my head:
What’s something new I can try? What new challenge can I begin to tackle? What else can I do to keep bettering myself? What can I do to keep moving forward? How can I make sure that my excitement for life never, ever dies?
It is only when my fingers start tapping the keys more slowly and I feel the pull of sleep tugging on my edges that I finally close my computer. I climb into my bed, but once I’m there, sleep seems to elude me. As I burrow under my own covers, trying to get more comfortable, I think of all the ideas and dreams that I’ve just written down. While I don’t know which one will be my version of first grade, the fact that I have so many to choose from fills me with exquisite happiness.
Still excited, I close my eyes one last time and eventually fall asleep, hoping the dreams of my sweet slumber help point me in the right direction.
* * *
What’s fueling excitement in your life these days? When was the last time you started something that kick-started your joy? What was the last thing (or current or future thing!) that you were passionate about? What will it take for you to start something new?
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.