New Beginnings

By Rachel Balducci

Henry and Isabel started school last week. Thank you, Jesus!

Ever since Isabel started preschool, I’ve taken a picture on the first day of school with all our kids lined up in front of the staircase. The very first year we did this, all five of our boys were looking sharp in their school uniform white shirt and khaki pants. Henry had on shorts, part of the elementary uniform while middle schoolers Augie and Charlie stood next to high schoolers Elliott and Ethan. Elliott was to the right of Ethan since he shot up like a weed at the end of middle school. All my little duckies in a row, nice and neat and sharp.

Isabel was first in line, to the left of her brothers. In the picture, she sports a cute little green skort because she did not yet wear a uniform. It is all precious and a sight to behold my entire world, and focus right there in a neat little line.

As the years have passed, the number in the line-up has dwindled. When Ethan graduated high school and went off to college, we had our first year with just five in the picture. And that number has quickly changed since we’ve had four high school graduates in the last five years—the number varies on such a regular basis.

We saw so many changes in just a short amount of time.

The picture I took this year was just Henry and Isabel standing in front of the stairs. No more tiny siblings were standing next to the older, lumbering ones. Isabel is in fifth grade, and Henry is in seventh. For the first time in almost ten years, there is not a Balducci boy in our high school.

I took the picture, and Isabel asked if she could text it to dad and to the four big brothers, all in college now. Instead of sending it to our family group text, she sent it individually, and I got individual responses back from each of the boys. “Makes me sad,” said one of them. Another sent a crying emoji. One brother loved the picture.

How did I feel about it? I wondered, especially after seeing the range of emotions from my sons. We are down to two at home, two whose lives we fully keep track of. It’s strange and more relaxing and different.

It’s wonderful.

There’s a way I could well up with emotion and feel sad and lament the passage of time. I suppose I could focus on those years that all my babies were together under my roof, all going to the same school, on the same sports teams, and riding everywhere with me in my giant twelve-passenger van.

Those were wonderful years, of course! And even though life is much easier now, I really did love washing all those uniforms and making all those lunches (I loved it even when I didn’t!).

When I was a younger mama and so aware of the gift of this full house (even when I wasn’t!), I sometimes feared the future. I could not imagine these babies of mine growing up and graduating high school and moving away. Would they really leave me? How could this be?

And then it started to happen. And I survived.

And better than that, it has been pretty awesome. Of course, there are hiccups and challenging moments, growing pains, and moments of loneliness. I do miss my boys when they are away! I love these children of mine.

But! But, what is so extraordinary is how your world expands as your children get older. I love that instead of one small bubble that we all exist within, there is now a much more giant orb where we circulate. We have more interests and experiences and activities. The world seems more significant, with even more adventures to enjoy!

What was once so scary to me has now become a great joy. New seasons bring a lot of unknown. When I remember to trust in the Lord and his great love for me and my husband and each of our children, I can find peace and assurance that God is there with us as we go about our way.

Augusta, schools