My 8:00am alarm goes off: “Text Rebecca if A will be late.” I haven’t deleted it even though it’s been a year since my daughter was in Rebecca’s classroom. Miss Rebecca, without whose warm, cheery confidence and love of children, I would probably never have had the courage to send my child to this school. Certainly not at the age of barely three and with no words. Miss Rebecca with her music and her hugs and her no-nonsense-ness when it’s called for. I won’t delete the alarm now, even though she won’t be going back to her preschool again.
I see a jar of dry oatmeal on the kitchen shelf and am reminded that I was going to bring in old beans, dried noodles, oatmeal, etc. for sensory play. I never did - although I did bring in other things. Now it’s too late.
They sent home her paper plate picture of her family - the one that had hung in the classroom all year. And when I take her to her school on the Tuesday after her last week, to see the Aquarium of the Pacific exhibit, we look inside the dark windows and see her classroom: Neater than it’s ever been, no personal items on the walls, nothing to indicate any of the people who have filled the room all year long. Clean and ready for the next batch of kids who will come through.
When we get to the playground, she starts to fuss. She thinks I am going to leave her there. It’s where I usually leave her on the days when we’re running late and I have to walk her into school instead of dropping her at the gate. The days when it’s a struggle to give her her meds, or when she’s been up in the night a lot, or her brother doesn’t want to get dressed... or I’m just too exhausted to move.
Those mornings where everything moves so fast: “Time to get up! Get dressed please! Come eat your eggs before they get cold! PLEASE get dressed! Where are your socks?” ...and an exasperated sigh (and a few hushed swear words) as I get all the way to the car before realizing that I haven’t put her shoes on. The rush rush rush of those mornings, the movement that seems like it will never stop... suddenly does. Suddenly everything is quiet and still, and I can look around me and take in what’s around me, take in just how wonderful this place has been for her.
How wonderful to have had a group of teachers and therapists who really love our little girl, who tear up when they talk about her in her IEP meeting or on her graduation day. How lucky we are to have this friendly place she can go and feel included, even though she’s not yet ready to really play with other kids.
After a little while of walking around on the open grassy playground, I think she realizes that I’m not going to leave her here, that I’m staying. She gets really happy. Her school friend Ryan is here with his mom and dad. She starts trotting along the path, looking at her shadow and smiling, sometimes laughing. She walks up the ramp to her classroom - now locked and dark - and then down again. And then up. And down. Soon, another friend, Stevie, shows up and Stevie and Ryan play with the big plastic trucks on the pavement. My girl trots around, sometimes squealing with delight, sometimes stopping briefly to look at Ryan and Stevie. Then Ryan takes a fall, skidding across the pavement on his face. There is blood and crying and washing up, and a few minutes later he is back on the little playground grinning widely as if nothing ever happened.
The morning had started with a flat tire. So Guy had to drop us off on his way to take her brother to school. After Ryan and Stevie go home, we are left there by ourselves, waiting for Daddy to come pick us up. I feel like she’s showing me around her playground, her place. I hold her hand and we walk around, up and down the paths around the sand pits and the slides, and all the while she’s laughing and shaking her head from side to side as if she’s tasting the wind. As if it’s so much fun to have MOMMY at her school!
We walk around some more and then we go back through the cool hallways where she loves to squeal so she can hear her own voice. We go through the office for the last time and down the stairs to where Daddy waits for us in the car. Not that day, but a few days later when I am all alone in the house with her, I delete the 8:00am alarm from my phone.