I know I shouldn't be thinking about next year's first day of school and other social challenges; I should live in the moment. And I try, I really do. It's just I fail, that's all.
So I was feeling scared of the future, and to compound things I ended up thinking about the past. First grade, to be exact, which ended up fine but started out…tough. I was remembering dropping off then-6-year-old Diana at the cafeteria table, where a bunch of kids were sitting, but none she knew, and all boys. She sat there were her giant backpack in the noisy cafeteria looking so tiny and forlorn. And I said, "Well bye, have a good day," and she, who had always been one of the easiest kids to drop off in the world, turned to me with an anguished face and cried out, "Oh Mommy, you have no idea how lonely I am." And after a moment of panic and anguish myself,* I, always ready to encourage antisocial tendencies, said, "But you have a book in your backpack, right? A book is always a friend, it's there to be a friend when no one else is." And we fished out The Boxcar Children, or whatever it was, and everything seemed better, or at least bearable.
I don't know if this is the right thing to do. Probably it makes more sense to try to teach a kid to reach out to another kid in those moments, because they all have times when they are lonely and scared, and truly the thing that helps, other than escaping into another world, is to try to help another person who is struggling. And probably their backpacks are overloaded anyway. But I think that when things are hard, when the next first day of school or camp or whatever comes along, a book in the backpack provides an essential source of comfort in this world.
*Yes, this was among the most agonizing moments I've faced as a parent, if only because everything was just so visible. It brought to mind the moment at the end of Portrait of a Lady when she cries out, "Ah Ralph, if only you knew how unhappy I am!" (not an exact quote, I do not have a copy near). Thinking of either of these almost always brings me to tears.