Today started with Noah's face inches from mine.
"Mom! You told me last night to remind you to give me money for the book fair," he says, lifting up the covers while I blink blearily at him.
"So I'm reminding you."
And we're off. I pull on some clothes and pull my hair into a ponytail while Jason gets Ike ready. Ezra, as usual, needs to be physically dragged out of bed and deposited on the floor of his room, at least four feet away from his bed so he won't immediately climb back in the minute our backs are turned. I distribute underwear and socks and shirts and hope that there are clean pants in the drawers — by Friday it's usually a laundry crapshoot. I inform Noah that the shirt he put on is too small for him. He insists it's fine, it's okay, he just won't raise his arms too much.
Downstairs: Cheerios, milk, juice, grapes, eggs, bananas, pancakes. Second, third, fourth helpings. Good Lord, they eat so, so much. Noah rehearses a presentation for a school project — a shoe box decorated and filled with representations of our family's cultural background. He struggles with the pronunciations of "potato famine" and "Hannukkah gelt." A box of spaghetti and a jar of German mustard complete the puzzle of our mutt-like heritage.
I pack Noah's lunch and then remember that — oh my God — in addition to the book fair AND the culture project, he's going on a field trip this morning. I re-pack everything in disposable bags.
I pack Ezra's lunch and then remember that — aw crap — it's Pizza Friday and I didn't need to pack anything. I shove it in the fridge for Ike to eat later and decide to make myself some coffee, because clearly, I need it.
Everybody back upstairs: Brush your teeth. Back downstairs: Find your shoes. Get your backpack. Coats, hats, a bajillion mismatched gloves. Jason takes Noah to the bus stop: Homework folder, reading journal, lunch, book fair money, shoebox project, check check check check check.
It's time for me to drive Ezra and Ike to their schools: No, you don't need your backpack or a lunch box today. No, you definitely don't need those four stuffed animals and three Matchbox cars. Fine, Ike, I'll put some Cheerios in a baggie for you since it's not like you've eaten half a box already. Ezra, why are you crying? What do you mean you thought you were going on Noah's field trip? Why would you...oh, Ezra. Dude. I'm sorry. But we really gotta go.
We drive right past Noah's school on the way to Ezra's. The buses are unloading and the sidewalks are full of kids and parents — I could drive Noah to school every day but he insists on taking the bus. Ezra asks about kindergarten for the millionth time while I try to picture what Noah's doing, wishing I could've chaperoned the field trip, then imagine my little Ezra there too, in those bustling, packed hallways of life and chaos.
"Next year," I say to Ezra, also for the millionth time.
I drop him off at his quiet little preschool and then book it over to Ike's campus — the curbside drop-off is ending in eight minutes and it usually takes me 10 to get there. We drive past Noah's school again, but everything has magically gone still and quiet in the span of a few minutes, now that the school day has begun. The buses for the field trip are idling at the curb.
I get to Ike's school and the drop-off is over, so I park and we walk to his classroom hand in hand. He goes in without a look back or a goodbye; I see him through the windows as I head back to the car, making a beeline for the easel to paint.
Finally, home. Top off my coffee and settle in front of the laptop. And that's when I notice the date.
Happy birthday, Dad.
I miss you so much.