Tomorrow Mary starts her new preschool, having missed the kindergarten cutoff by about a month. This one is an all day program, a couple of days a week, but it's the first time she'll be away from me on a consistent basis for that length of time.
Back in the spring I was pushing for kindergarten. She's emotionally and academically ready for sure. But it didn't happen. A couple of weeks ago I posted on Facebook that while people's walls were filling up with sad posts about sending their children off to school, I was silently grumbling that we had another year to go.
Tonight I'm wistful. She loves her new school and I'm surprised she went to bed as easily as she did this evening. There's a chill in the air, summer is over, and tomorrow, my first baby starts out on her own little journey.
I don't remember my own first day of nursery school, or kindergarten, except that on my first day of my public school career this five year old selected the craziest print dress known to man and wore it with bright red tights. I do remember the day before my brother's first day of school, though back then in our town kindergarten was a half day affair. I was in line at the Ben Franklin with my mom.
"School tomorrow," the cashier said. My mom confirmed she did, in fact, also have the ability to read a calendar.
"But don't worry," the cashier said. "Don't be sad. Pour yourself another cup of coffee and ENJOY IT."
I don't remember what my mom said. Probably that she wouldn't cry. (Which probably would have been a lie. This is the woman who predictably cried when I tried on my wedding dress but also, less traditionally, cried when I opened towels at my shower.) I don't know how she acted once those school bus doors closed on Steve and I that September morning. But I do know that tomorrow, when I leave the cubby room, Mary is going to be a bundle of energy and joy and I'll probably get a little misty. I like to pretend that's not who I am, but you know, sometimes the chink in the armor shows in the light of day.
Five years ago I was counting the days until my due date, then the days I was past due, until at 3:02 in the morning in early October, they handed me Mary. I know the exact time because I had to get a copy of her birth certificate for the school, and it was there, in bold type.
"Is this the long form? Will she be able to run for president?" I asked the City Clerk. I had to ask her something, make a bad joke, I was getting wistful just looking at the stupid thing. 3:02 a.m. in Warwick, this ridiculously wonderful and crazy journey began. It's been a blur ever since. I find myself looking at old pictures, willing myself to remember stories, everything I can from her babyhood. I hate when something slips by. Three kids in four years has been a wonderful blessing, but it's also made for a very rapid passage of time. How did we get here so fast? Wasn't I just putting her into a pink Red Sox bodysuit yesterday, holding her as they won the Series? Weren't we just sitting there, a family of three with a grey cat under a glowing tree, 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, letting a wide awake two month old "open" her presents?
Today I watched her at a birthday party, running an obstacle course, all legs and arms and a loud laugh, blonde hair in a french braid that hung to her waist, asking for another cookie, a juice box, a ride in a red wagon. Yesterday she and her best friend picked apples and danced in a sudden rainstorm. How did we arrive at this place already? How will she not always be this innocent, this happy? How did I get so lucky not once, but three times?
Tomorrow she starts school. Not even real school, not even all week, but she has a backpack with her name on it and requests for a lunch. (A juice box, a string cheese and a cheese sandwich, according to my four year old menu planner.) She has a towel for rest time and a cubby with a spot for a special stuffed animal just in case she needs it. Tomorrow will be full of new things and every day things and, yes, probably multiple cups of coffee. And pictures. So many pictures, just in case one day I can't remember it all as well as I'd like to.
Someone compared parenting to a marathon, and we're passing another marker on the trail.