First day of school. M and J wake at 6:02, run to the living room, wiggle around on the couch. They eat chocolate cereal and wake P with their shouting. P shuffles out of her bedroom in a pink flowered nightgown, eyes half closed, complains about her sisters’ noise. Later they hop around on the sidewalk, backpacks rounded with new rulers and inside shoes. They run up the stairs ahead of me, ignore the mist that gathers on their hair like dew.

P finds the cubby with her name on it outside the preschool classroom, hangs her Tinkerbell backpack on the hook, carefully lines up her runners on the top shelf. When she enters the classroom she walks straight to the shiny bouncy ball and begins to bounce around the room, no time for long goodbyes. I walk alone through the school yard, leave all my daughters behind me, shiver under the grey sky.

P shuffles across the room in my oversized Birkenstocks, crawls under the bridge made by my downward dog, giggles the whole time. Her sisters eat Swedish oatmeal with pumpkin seeds and fresh strawberries, laughing at her show.

J bursts into tears when she sees me at the school parking lot, tells me that she fell on the monkey bars and couldn’t breathe. Says she thought maybe she would die. A friend had gone to get the teacher, and when J saw M waiting in the lunch line, she ran to her, hugged her, cried into her matching purple t-shirt.

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