The second week of school has started for my boys. Nephew Vonda MaShone is in fifth grade and does patrol in the morning. He looks quite official in his bright yellow belt. SweetFaceBoy, my son, is in third grade and spends the mornings before his classroom opens reading under a tree. Though it was 103 degrees in my backyard yesterday, summer is over.

My biggest accomplishment last week was not crying on their first day of school. Everyone woke early. The boys dressed in brand new school clothes and gleaming white sneakers. They gelled and spiked their hair so hard you could've popped truck tires on their heads. We took pictures of them in front of the house.

"C'mon, let's go." SweetFaceBoy's impatience started to snarl his face.

"I'll be late for patrol," Officer Friendly said.

Pandemonium reigned at the school. Four policemen directed traffic. Harried parents. Anxious children. Tears on a few of their faces. Cameras everywhere.

I took MaShone's two-ton backpack while he took his patrol post. SFB and I walked to his classroom, a portable near an overgrown garden and two picnic tables in the shade of a large oak. Hold it together, I told myself. His teacher, Mrs. Jonesey greeted us warmly, and I squeezed his shoulder and told him to have a great day. He wove through the clutch of kids already there to a table with his name on it and put his backpack away. The teacher announced something and they all moved to one spot, standing in line to store their lunch boxes. SFB flashed me a shy smile as he shuffled along. Yesterday I brought him to kindergarten. The day before that I changed his diaper. Two days ago I held him, five minutes old.

"Have a nice day, Mr. Lovejoy." It was Mrs. Jonesey, cocking her head toward me at a knowing angle. It said: He'll come home alive, I promise.

I turned, realizing I had blocked three sets of parents and kids from getting inside. Hold it together hold it together. My hand was numb from holding Vonda's backpack. I walked down the path from the portable and he raced up to meet me.

"You have allergies, Uncle Lovejoy?"

"Yes." I cleared my throat and sniffed. "Say, how did it go this morning?"

"Great. Mr. Miller said I did a really good job. See you later. Bye!!"

Seven years ago, abandoned by the assholes who conceived him, he was still in diapers and drinking from a bottle. Today he makes Mr. Spock look like a slacker.

Normally on the first day of school I plant tomatoes and italian parsley. However, the garden wasn't prepared and I had cymbidium orchids pushing out of their pots.

With a hammer I boke the clay pots and used a saw to divide the tight roots. The cymbidium fought against every division every step of the way. I lost a bulb or two but got five new plants from one.

They will now grow separately, but they'll be healthier, and they should all flower at about the same time.