She’s nervous, I can tell. This whole back-to-school scenario is frightening to her.

“What if nobody can understand me with a mask on?”

“What if I forget and walk the wrong way down the hall like I did by mistake at the grocery store last week?”

“What if I just really need to HUG somebody?”

But she’s also so very excited.

“I can’t wait to see my friends.”

“It’s going to be so much fun to be back in the classroom!”

“I’ve missed everyone: their faces, their excitement, their chatter.”

She has a new outfit for the first day of school, new notebooks and school supplies. The first day of school is circled with blue marker (her favorite color) on the calendar, and there’s a new rainbow water bottle sitting on the kitchen counter just waiting for her. She’s read and reread all the new rules and suggestions in the Return To School Plan and knows that lunch will be delivered to the classroom now and there will be hand washing and hand sanitizer and hand signals, but no handshaking or hand-holding or hands on your back just for reassurance.

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She knows that the first day and the first week and the first month of school will be awkward and scary and different, and that there are no guarantees the beautifully-crafted Return To School Plan is going to work or that she will be in the classroom even as long as she was last year. The solitary apocalyptic walk back to the classroom where everything is in order for the next day, a months-old date written on the board and papers stacked neatly on the desk, could happen again.

She prays for the kids and her own school-age kids. She worries about self-quarantining from her in-laws and not being able to travel back her to her first home to visit with us and her sister and brother, nieces and nephews. She smiles, but there is reality just beyond that smile, and fear and anger and an ever-present sense of what-if.

My daughter is a teacher.

This is her vocation, her life, her love. Her experience has helped craft the Return to School Plan. She has attended every virtual planning offered her this summer, and prayed endlessly for all her students from last year who stepped up to the realities that the world threw at them with smiles, and for this year’s students who will be waiting for her in the new, oddly configured classroom, with masks not quite covering their uncertainties.

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It’s a “fluid situation,” according to school district posts, and I can guarantee that much of that fluid is tears, whether shed in the dark of night or brimming just behind bravely smiling eyes.

I’m her mom, and I’m worried about her going back to school, just as every mom is. But I’m also happy for her, and so incredibly proud of her. 

My prayers go with her.

Vicki Bahr

I'm a mother of four, grandmother of nine, wife of John for forty eight years, an incurable optimist, word lover, and story sharer. I've worked and played at many careers, from proofreader to preschool teacher, businesswoman to human interest newspaper columnist to medical records clerk. Each path has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the warmth of humanity and to hopefully spread a lifetime of smiles, empathy, and God's inspiration along the way. My life continues to be one of delight. With experience comes understanding, with understanding comes peace.