The girls ran to get their brand-new bookbags – stuffed with all the great new school supplies – to show it all off Tuesday afternoon, just hours before Wednesday’s first day of school. They ran through some grass and the dust of the gravel road road in front of the mobile homes where they live.
Inside and outside, there were mothers who stay at home with kids and mothers who were home because they work third-shift – and there was not a single mimosa anywhere.
The fathers were all at work. Construction, landscaping, turning wrenches as car and truck mechanics, heaving across plant floors made of concrete.
It was quite a contrast to Monday’s first day of school in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village, where some 100 mothers spent the morning sipping the champagne-and-fruit-juice cocktails to toast the end of summer in a neighborhood with no gravel roads and no mobile homes.
Down a gravel street at the Ridgecrest mobile home park, a girl heading into the sixth grade organized the binders and folders, the pens and pencils of her long list that the school said she must have. Her disabled mother came out, a titanium rod in her back.
She shook her head, saying she had never heard of parents partying to celebrate kids’ going back to school, much less seeing a mimosa having been drunk in daylight there. Or anywhere.
Two York County communities, a million miles apart.
“We had to ask for help from others and depend on people giving out school supplies, just to get her ready,” the mother said of her daughter, whose eyes shone with anticipation of a school year during which she can dare to be great.
Andrea Bennett came out the front door of her mobile home, down to her single-step front porch, and talked about what a great summer she had with her daughters, Kayla, 11, and, Jayden, 8. Her husband was at work at a plant nursery greenhouse.
“We went swimming and went to the lake and it was great,” Bennett said. “Great summer. I am sad to see them start school, because it was so much fun. But the kids have to go to school so they can learn.
“Nobody drinks during the day around here.”
Jayden, who is going into second grade, talked about her love of reading. Kayla talked about being “half-and-half” sad about summer being over and having to leave her family for school.
“It is a new year at school, and it is gonna be great,” the fifth-grader said.
Andrea Rodriguez, 9, heading for fourth grade like a runaway locomotive, talked with excitement of a new teacher to meet, a new classroom to stride into, all the things she would learn. But she, too, was a little sad that the last day of summer had come.
“I’m sad and glad at the same time,” she said.
Her mother, Yolanda Rodriguez, stood nearby, two younger kids to care for, beaming at her daughter’s joy for school. No mimosas for Rodriguez. Cooking though, and dishes and clothes to wash and iron and braids to twist and dreams to nurture until the husband gets home covered with dust from work.
The kids all lined up to show off the bookbags and nobody ever smiled wider or more proudly. The mothers who had saved for the new stuff were just as proud of these kids. And when the kids step up onto the school bus steps before 7 a.m. in the weak first light of a new school year Wednesday morning, the mothers will try not to cry.
They will fail.
In the mobile home across the gravel drive, running so fast to get the bookbags, were three sisters – Naomi, Shaelin and Emelyn Pacheco, ages 10, 8 and 6. Their black hair shone and their dark eyes gleamed and they were thrilled to show off all the stuff their mother, Monica, had bought with money from a father working ’til sundown with a hammer in his hand.
“I am going in the fifth grade,” Naomi said with great pride.
“Third grade for me, and I have a new bookbag and all new stuff,” said Shaelin.
“I am in first grade, and I will be sad to leave my mom when I go to school,” said Emelyn. “And my bookbag will be so heavy when I carry it.”
Pacheco will drink no mimosa Wednesday. What she knows is work and kids and love – and the importance of school returning Wednesday for mothers and kids on a gravel road in a mobile home park.
“Sad,” Monica Pacheco said of her three daughters leaving her for school.
Still, she is thrilled that they have the opportunity to learn and grow. She will cry when they leave.
But she will not cry in her beer – or her mimosa.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065; firstname.lastname@example.org