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Cam Marston on Starting a New School Year

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On this week’s Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston readies himself for yet another first day of school.

It’s 6:30am Wednesday morning. The house is quiet except for the non-ending, dripping, rain that’s been a part of this very wet summer. In twenty-four hours, this kitchen will be buzzing. Tomorrow is the first day of school, and my kids will return to their morning rituals that we’ve known so well for so many years – making lunches, packing backpacks, gathering clothes for practices and looking for shoes that were accounted for last night but somehow, overnight, have been “stolen.”

My wife and I have taken a picture of our kids on their first day of school every year since our oldest daughter, now a college sophomore, started Kindergarten. The kids lined up and smiled for the camera. Their faces were full of excitement for their older sister as she started school. They leaned towards each other, hugging and holding hands. Tomorrow there will be only three of them in the photo – their sister has returned to college -, and they’ll wear different expressions, as they’re forced to pose for the same picture yet again this year. They’ll not be leaning into each other; they’ll not be holding hands. They’ll say, “This is so stupid! Can you please hurry? We’re going to be late!” My wife and I will force them to stand there – asking for a smile is redundant – and then proudly post the picture just like parents everywhere do these days.

Looking back on the old photos, I’m sentimental about those days. We had little kid problems then. Now we have the challenges typical of teenagers. Back then, we hoped their teachers would send them home with a smiley-face sticker and a good behavior report. Now we’re lucky to learn anything about their day at all. We used to hear about their friends, and they’d show off their artwork at the dinner table every night. Now we schedule family dinners four or five days in advance due to busy schedules and we have to remind the kids that they’re required to be there.

Tomorrow I’m playing pickleball with my father and his buddies right in the middle of a busy workday. I already feel guilty not working, but down the road, I won’t remember working on a typical Thursday. I will, however, remember saying, “I’m sorry, Dad, I’m just too busy” to the many times he’s already asked me to play. He’s eighty-five, and tomorrow at lunch I’ll be his playing partner.

He'll show me off to his friends like he always does with my brothers and me, and he’ll tell a little bit of my story and hug me and smile. He’ll quietly think back to the days when I was much younger and wonder where time has gone and how much longer he and I have together. Just like I’ll have done tomorrow morning as I watch my kids walk from their first day of school picture, climb in the car, and head away.

I'm Cam Marston, and I'm just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.