L’s first day (back) at school

Dear L,

Today was your first day at school, in Year 11 at least. I remember still, your proper first day. Only just 4 and dressed for the first time in the same clothes as K, your twin sister. Both of you with neat plaits, and you beam out of a photo that somehow found its way into the utility room. Big smiles, holding hands, but if you look closely, you can see the tension in both of your faces. We had just moved to the city, our house was in renovation chaos and you started school, attending just for a half day, because a full day would be too much.

Today, it was only a half day too, because a whole day would have been too much. As usual, you were well prepared, downstairs early with a packed bag. Instead of plaits, your hair was down, carefully conditioned in soft waves. You had make up on, not a great deal, just enough to look made up, but not too much to attract attention. There were no shiny patent buckle shoes, but black canvas pumps which turned out to be K’s. You were anxious, rather than excited. You have not been inside school since July, when your alarming thinness was the cause of anxious whispers behind hands, with your friends being pulled to one side to ask if you were “all right” and why you never smiled any more. This is a toe being dipped back in the pool of normality, and it is wonderful that you are in a much better place now. But we both know you are a long way away from ‘recovered’.

As usual, you just get on with it. You eat breakfast, even though I know it seems more difficult than usual. You and K head to the bus stop and you pack a chocolate bar and apple for your mid morning snack. I suggest you eat it in the lunchtime bus home, I know that the prospect of eating a chocolate bar at break time surrounded by hundreds of pointing girls would probably be too much.

It is no less a milestone than that first day nearly twelve years ago. I am every bit as proud, probably more so. Back then it was a rite of passage, but one which everyone goes through. Today, it was a rite of passage in recovery and no one knows how you have struggled to get there. You have faced demons far greater than maths homework, unrequited love and anxiety over exam results. To me, your strength is inspirational. Congratulations on your first day, here’s to many more.

All my love

Mum

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