Today Danny headed off to his first day of Middle School v2.0, which is to say he went to the building itself for school for the first time.

If I am being completely honest, I didn’t see it coming. When we headed into the second semester still seeing high numbers of the virus, I truly thought he would be participating in distance learning for the entirety of his 6th grade year. I had made my peace with that, had even started to prefer it. After all, I know more about what is happening in his world right now than I have since he was 3 years old. (Danny has always lacked the functional language to really tell us what happens at school, and I can only count on asking about 3 specific questions before “he doesn’t know” how his day was and he did “nothing” in all of his classes.)

But however it came to be, today we found ourselves coming full circle. It has been one week short of a year since I had to bring him home early from school out of an abundance of caution; he wasn’t so terribly ill, its just that there was this virus going around…

The next time he would set foot on those school grounds was to get his picture taken for his 5th grade promotion. The last time would be a month later, when we picked up his yearbook.

And then today; a shiny new backpack, a chrome book full of stickers, and his middle school hoodie. My precious vessel, once again out at sea.

Now begins the complicated work of finding the end of the line; hunting through the weeds of what I have not been able to hold together at home to find the place where the thread was severed nearly a year ago and tie it off. Maybe they will find it, but maybe they wont.

This isn’t the first time in his education that the thin line holding him in the space between thriving and deteriorating has broken. It has happened for many reasons, some that were in our control and many more that were not. And at every breaking point I have been filled with despair about what we would lose; what hard fought academic or behavioral gain was going to slip through the cracks while we tried to piece it back together. It isn’t an unreasonable fear; we’ve seen it happen. Data is the devil we know.

However, as sure as I am that important things have been lost, I am equally certain that we will find a way. We may not be able to finish the path we were on but soon enough we will start to see a new one come into focus. The collaborative effort of Danny has always been this way; broken, brilliant pieces, mended together to form the person he will become.

He is a mosaic of unconventional materials; a second grade musical, a fire alarm, a book worth reading, a field trip riding in the “good” busses.

The love of a teacher. And another. And another.

The dedication of a school that sought him through the wilderness.

A year at home with Mom.

His own stubborn grit.

He is a beautiful, unfinished piece of stained glass. And all of the difficult things shine such beauty on us now, we can never take a broken piece for granted.

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