I loved first grade. I loved my teacher and I loved to learn. I remember writing stories on that paper with the blue lines and the red dash in the middle. I'd write page after page, crafting stories about mermaids and princesses and castles. I remember how excited I was to share them with my teacher. If I close my eyes, I can see her. I can see the classroom, with the chalkboard, the alphabet letters and days of the week on the walls. We learned about dinosaurs that year. I remember learning their names and how amazingly exciting it was to imagine dinosaurs. To imagine and dream about so many things. My passion for learning started when I was 6 years old and I never stopped loving learning, straight through graduate school.
After college I was lucky to return to my school (well, new building)to substitute teach. I had lunch in the teachers' lounge with my first grade teacher and several of my other grade school faculty. It was so hard for me to call them by their first names. It was the coolest experience to return to my original place of learning and teach beside the people who had first taught me.
Last year was as exciting for me as it was for Caroline. I so enjoyed buying her school supplies and helping her pack her pencil box filled with number 2 pencils and erasers, her water bottle, tissues and notebook paper. I'll never forget her first day of school and waiting in the driveway for the bus. To walk her to the steps and let go of her hand, and watch her little face in the window, created in me and Andy a roller coaster of emotions. I had to fight Andy not to get in his car and follow the bus to the school. I still get emotional every single morning putting her on the bus and every morning she sits on our side so she can smile and wave as the bus pulls away. Even my mom got teary-eyed when she visited last spring and sent her off to school on the bus.
It is hard to let go of your child. Sending them to school is such a big step. We worried about who would be there to guide our precious girl through her day. But Caroline's teacher assured us that the staff would be there for her. They would direct her to her class when she got off the bus. They would help her find the cafeteria and the library. They would make sure she got on the right bus or in the pick up line or the after school line. She reminded me that Caroline be ok without us. She didn't need us when she was at school. She had a whole building full of people looking out for her.
I'll never forget the day, last spring, when I had a parent/teacher conference and Caroline passed me in the hallway on her way to the library. I stopped and smiled. "Hey, Care!" I called to her, expecting her to stop in her tracks, maybe cry, and come running for me. Instead she waved at me, smiled, and kept walking. She looked like such a big kid. She looked at home. That day I was able to physically see what her teacher had reassured me about all year. She was ok without me at school. She was happy, and thriving, and safe.
I think it is so fun to visit Caroline's school. I enjoy walking down the hallway and looking into all the rooms filled with little chairs, desks, rugs for story time and cubbies filled with backpacks. It even smells. You know, like old school. It's not a bad thing. I don't quite know how to describe it. You just know when you are there that is smells like a school. When I am at Caroline's school, I am transported back in time to gym class and art projects, to story time and spelling words, to recess and yellow school buses. I am reminded of hope. I am reminded of goodness. It sounds cliche, but when I am at her school, I'm brought back to a simpler time. I look at Caroline and I remember that time in my life. When I look at her my heart swells. I see all that is good and pure and kind and sweet. She is my spirit. She is all that I have ever wanted to be, all that I will ever want to be. She is perfect.I am so lucky to be witness to that perfection.
Thank you to the people who spend each day with her. Thank you for getting her to school safely, for helping her tie her shoes, or dry her tears. Thank you for supporting her in her learning, inspiring her to grow, and encouraging her to be a good person.
I am so thankful tonight. And yes, I'm holding my kids a little longer, squeezing them a little tighter and yes, they even seem a little less annoying lately. Just perfectly annoying.