Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Self Portrait & First Day

I love September's theme at Self Portrait Challenge; "With Someone." One's "someone" is always a reflection, a true self portrait.

In that case, here's one of my favorite self portraits ever.

They started school today: Mina's first day of second grade. Maya's first day of middle school. We took Mina first to her school. I love the energy of elementary school. I love small kids with huge backpacks all scurrying around, saying the funniest shit. Like Mina, she said, "Boy, there's a lot of little people here." Her teacher has a warm, gushy, old pot-head energy to her. I loved her instantly. The classroom is packed with all kinds of stuff: tons of books shoved into shelves, sayings and laminated things covering the walls completely, tiny computers crammed together, yarn and markers and construction paper barely tucked away, and mobiles dangling from the ceiling . All the stuff is dying to be unleashed, the room is dying to be a big huge mess. It's the greatest kind of learning environment as far as I'm concerned. Mina sat down front row center next to a tall kid named David and she was ready to go, man. Maya and I both looked at her longingly. We got a quick wave, one little blown kiss and we knew that would be it. We knew we had to go on to middle school.

Maya and I talked the whole walk to her school. Pep talk, pep talk, advice. I just rambled as much as I could and Maya sopped it all up with a biscuit. We went over everything again: we strategized walking to school, how to be a safe pedestrian, how to survive popular girl clicks, how to pull off the whole girls' locker room fiasco, how to possibly meet new friends -- I was wingin it, man. Before we entered the school, I said, "Be prepared to see anything at this point." And pretty quickly, we saw a girl wearing transparent lace capri tights with a tshirt-sized "dress". She was also sporting a long, hip necklace that I myself own. UG. I saw another kid with the same cell phone I own and a few girls with way better shoes than I have. And a better hair stylist. And manicurist. And handbag. Maya's mouth had dropped open at one point. "Close your mouth, girl. Pull your shoulders back," I whispered out the side of my mouth. We had come early to practice getting to her classes and navigate the schoolgrounds. Maya tried to say hi to a couple kids with no luck whatsoever. She was starting to sweat under the weight of her backpack and her look became more and more forlorn. My stomach cramped. I felt like I was waving her around like tasty chum in a shark tank. I didn't want to leave her there, alone. I said, "There are a lot of kids that feel the same as you today. You're going to do great once you feel more familiar." I suggested we practice going to her classes again which we did. I pointed out a couple of other girls that had the same bewildered look on their face. We met a few of her teachers and they seemed really cool. We met Lulu, the cafeteria lady who was so southern classic. When Maya showed Lulu some manners, Lulu said, "Oh nice to meet you too, baa-bee!" I said, "Maya, always be cool with the cafeteria lady."

It was time to let her go. I knew I had to. She would do great. It really seemed scarier this time around, for me, than when I was twelve and released to the wolves of middle school. I almost threw up when I turned to let her fend for herself.

23 comments:

Maven said...

Oh, man, I love your picture too. Y'all are so goodlookin and good-time-havin. I also love "tasty chum in a shark tank." Now take some deep cleansing breaths.

Doodle Bug said...

When I started middle school, I too started at a school where I knew no one. We moved that summer before and I was scared out of my mind that first day. Luckily, I was avoided by those "cliques" and by the end of the day I had found the one other girl that was completely new and we stayed best friends through high school.

She's a tough cookie that girl of yours. I'm sure it will turn out wonderfully being she has you as a mother that taught her to be strong and independant.

By the way, I am a long time reader and lurker...I just had to comment this time.

Green Whale said...

"Close your mouth, girl. Pull your shoulders back." -- That's really, really good advice, and not only on your first day of middle school. Really beautiful photo.

SUEB0B said...

Great, great photo. So much love.

You are a peach to give your girl the lowdown on junior high. No one told me. Your girls have a good ally in you.

michelle/weaker vessel said...

:::suerte, maya:::

middle school is the nadir of human existence. My oldest is in 8th grade this year, which may be the low point of the low point. The obnoxiousness! The credulity! The drama! It sucks.

But, on the bright side, my youngest just started second grade, too. Pothead energy is sorely lacking in Alabama public schools, but his teacher's an animal lover and the classroom is chock-full of snakes and gerbils and hamsters and such. I love love love kids before they start to get mean, ya know?

Happy September, girly.

Husband said...

Wow Baby! Exellent post!
You're really sick wit it.
Bananas!

Kathleen said...

this might be my favorite picture from you, ever. for serious, girl. this picture RAWKS.

also. a pat on the back. you did good today. and so did maya. she has an incredible, strong model and background.

you.
are.
such.
a.
crazygoodlovingstrongsmart.
mom.

Mardougrrl said...

What a gorgeous picture!

And ugh, your words put a knot in my stomach at the memories. But you are right--guiding her the best way you know how, and reminding her that LOTS of kids will feel that sense of dislocation until they find themselves within the crowd.

Deb R said...

That's a wonderful photo. You all look so joyful!

Irene said...

best. picture. ever.

Marigoldie said...

Your words about being nice to the cafeteria lady feels like the most important of all the middle school advice. I just see Maya filling the school with her mad Maya vibes.

acumamakiki said...

I love this photo Madness, love. And as I've said before, you are my mami inspiration ~ with you in their hearts, how can Maya and Mina do anything but soar?? I hope that Maya's first day was alright.

Alexandra S said...

If most girls had mothers like you, this world would be a very different place- a much more empowered, self-confident, beautiful one!

madness rivera said...

Thanks for the kind and supportive words, and sharing your stories -- welcome dooble bug.

Maya did great. Even took it in stride when she ate lunch all by herself (heart break, mine). But she couldn't wait to tackle it again today. I totally admire her for that, her buoyancy. Mina is running shit over at her school already in her quiet, mastermind kinda way. Oh, but I got yelled at by the elementary office already. MAN! Are they ALWAYS bitter and bitchy up in there? They can't wait to put a foot in a parent's ass. I'm sure many, many parents are jerk offs too, but I guess we must all pay . . .

la vie en rose said...

i love those smiles!

LeS said...

OK, best picture ever!!

How did yesterday go?

As ugly as middle/high school is we all made it through and that fabulous girl will find her way with flair :)

Especially with you at her back.

Love, love.

Melinda said...

First off, ditto on the picture, obviously. Second: "Be prepared to see anything at this point"?? That's possibly the most awesome piece of advice you could give someone entering middle school.

dani said...

you're all such gorgeous girls!

Dori said...

How very, very smart to practice finding classes/locker. The new building is one of the scariest parts of jr. high. I still have nightmares about making it to class on time, and I'm 29.

Nessie Noodle said...

oh man! that is a great story-
and that photo, oh the laughter and the love and and and..

happy first day girls~

andrea said...

the photo-- is stunning in so many ways.

ava recently discovered a book I wrote when I was in 6th grade called 'popularity doesn't count'. dude, I won a prize and went the young author's conference! so totally cool, right? anyway, it was about this girl who gives up her two best friends to hang with the cool crowd and then finds out how mean they are. it was a thinly veiled story about my real life and the popular girls, THEY WERE SO MAD AT ME. but hey, I had to tell the truth. meanwhile, ava is trying to wrap her brain around this. she doesn't know about the meanness of middle school yet. and I felt my chest get tight reading about you and maya and the moments before. it broke my heart to read that she sat alone at lunch but wow dude she is so strong and so beautiful and so loved (and I know that you know all this) but still. I believe this, I do. if I didn't then I'd be homeschooling my girl ava all the way til 18. a mama does what she can, a mama has got to have some faith. thank goodness you're one of those mamas.

Laini Taylor said...

Oh man, I hope everything went okay for both the girls. I hope they make some cool friends and get off to a great start. I was getting so anxious reading that post. How can middle-schoolers be so intimidating?!

rose colored glasses said...

What a beautiful picture.... Lovel love it. Nice post as well.