Wouldn’t it be great to just stay here? Since I started working for the school district, I have enjoyed a mostly relaxing summer vacation just as much as the kids (I say mostly because I have broken up at least 462 kid fights per day). And returning to the real world was just a commitment in the horizon—school was as faraway as the land of Oz.

Connor nudged me.

“Mom. Close your eyes.”

We both covered our faces, once again averting the elaborate “Back to School” reminders in the front of the store.

Why must retailers constantly remind us that summer will eventually end?

(Walmart. Proudly killing summer joy since late June.)

We don’t want to know. We don’t want to remember. We just want to live suspended in carefree, swimming pool, running around the neighborhood with friends, sleeping in, camping, and packing up the car to leave for vacation, kind of days.

Because those are the best.

Wouldn’t it be great to just stay here? Since I started working for the school district, I have enjoyed a mostly relaxing summer vacation just as much as the kids (I say mostly because I have broken up at least 462 kid fights per day). And returning to the real world was just a commitment in the horizon—school was as faraway as the land of Oz.

And the yellow brick road was a winding, golden, season.

The thing is, as we inched closer to that distant place of schedules, homework, football practice, and crockpot food—and I love crockpot food—the new places we are going and the faces we might encounter have seemed somewhat intimidating.

Logan will return to the same school he has been at since I walked him into kindergarten and he turned around very nicely and said, “You can go now, Mom. And don’t cry. I got this.”

He did have it, too. From day one, Logan has rocked school. Every face, whether familiar or not, is a friend to him. And he drums though life in some kind bohemian, leave one shoe in the neighbor’s yard and the other in the creek, beat. Carefree and happy.

Truly, unless his brother is nearby, Logan is usually in a good mood. That’s how they know him at school. They love him, and he loves them.

So, he’s just returning to what he knows.

Connor on the other hand, is a loner. He prefers to keep old friends rather than make new ones. And social settings are not really his thing. At home he is dry humored and witty, analytic, and always questioning my parenting skills.

“Mom. It is illegal to stuff Mike and Ike’s into your purse at the movies.”

Of course, we were just discussing a hypothetical situation. Because we would never do that.

But, if we did do that, Connor would refuse to eat it and threaten to go tell on us. So, instead we would miss a very important part of Black Panther to go to the concession stand and pay a hundred dollars for the exact candy sitting in my purse I got for a dollar at Walmart.

Hypothetically, of course.

And as for school, Connor has always been the quiet kid.

Now that quiet kid is moving on to Middle School. So, the end of that summery brick road opens a whole new world of locker combinations, gym clothes, and hallways filled with kids he’s never met before.

It’s something we are going through together, though. Because after a year with Connor and Logan at their elementary school, supervising recesses and working in the library, I am also moving on the Hannibal Middle School to be a secretary.

We will officially begin our journey tomorrow. It’s not the first time we started something new together.

I remember his hand tightly gripping mine as we walked into the gymnasium at Veterans Elementary. Kids swarmed the room, looking for their teachers and what line to sit in, and I walked him to his spot and assured him that he was going to love it.

Walking out the door of his school, I drove to Quincy with the same butterflies I sensed in Connor and first entered Quincy University as a journalism/communication student.

Both of us were afraid, but both of us made it through one step and one year at a time. And now that road is leading us to another new journey.

Those same butterflies are there, but they are fluttering around an excited expectation of so many good things to come. For both of us.

So. Here are we are, Walmart back to school aisle. We are looking you in the eye and ready to go. We’ve made it to Oz.