We have to start with last night. Last night, after books, Selam settled into her bed. She didn’t want me to sing. She didn’t want the CD music, “just quiet, Mommy.” Fine, then. There’s a first time for everything. I sat down and began to read and noticed that she was talking to herself. I leaned in, expecting to need to say something.
“Kindergarten, kindergarten, kindergarten, kindergarten, kindergarten, kindergarten….”
She whispered that to herself until she fell asleep.
This morning, she woke up at a quarter to six, fifteen minutes early. She sprang from bed (she may be a big kindergartener, but she ended up in my bed last night!), ran to her room, picked up her new shoes and put them on. “It’s kindergarten today, kindergarten today, kindergarten today and I get to wear my new shoes!!!!!”
She was wearing her ice cream cone pajamas. backwards. Her hair, newly cut, was molded into a cone shape by the sleeping cap. Yesterday’s Dora the Explorer Easter socks completed the look. She jumped up and down, up and down, making the new shoes light up.
I understand her excitement. These shoes are true beauties….brown mary-jane style with a sneaker bottom, pink glitter on the toes and light up heels. See, I like to say that Selam is a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll. she likes to dress like a princess, and she also likes to run faster than all the boys on the playground. These are the perfect shoes.
She wore her shoes to breakfast, and then jumped up and down while I took a shower and got dressed. I think this is the first morning in a year where she hasn’t at least ASKED to watch TV before leaving for the day. After I was dressed, she put on her new clothes (a skirt and top), changed into new white socks (with little pink bows on the side) and then let me do her hair. It’s still very tightly coiled from her haircut, so all it needed was a little princess spray and a headband.
We went outside to take pictures, and then got in the car. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I’m so used to traveling for 20 minutes or more to get to pre-school that we left at 8, when school doesn’t even open until 8:20. We got there and just sort of walked around for a while. Selam busied herself by waving at everyone she met–dog walkers, joggers, older children coming into the school. Finally, we went to the playground to wait. We’ve been playing on this playground for months now, so it was familiar and easy. I was introducing myself to another parent when I realized that Selam had run off. The teacher had opened the door up and Selam had run over and was standing in front of it. I was walking over there to call her back when the teacher asked her if her mom was there. Yep, I’m the mom with the runaway child. Once the teacher saw me, she told Selam she could go into the classroom but only after she put on her own backpack. “Kindergarteners,” the teacher said, “carry their own stuff.” (oh how wonderful will my airport trips be if Selam takes this to heart?)
Selam put on her own backpack and boldly marched in the room. She found her cubby, and helped me put her extra clothes and forms away. She hung up her backpack and then did a few jumps and twirls. (Did I mention that the skirt twirls, too?)The paraprofessional asked her if she’d eaten breakfast and she told him, “no.” I don’t know why she said that. She had breakfast. But sure enough, her breakfast card went into the little basket for breakfast. The teacher took her over to find her name on the class list and check herself off as being present. Then the teacher looked at me and said, “time to take a picture and leave!” It was 8:24. I saw the time on my clock as I prepared it for the picture. It went so fast. I took her picture, and then gave her a quick hug and kiss. Selam leaned in to me and said sotto voce “I love kindergarten.”
There were only two kids there.
I had some time to kill between drop off and a doctor’s appointment, so I stepped into the coffee shop across the street, where I could watch the whole parade of mothers and fathers entering the building with children and returning empty handed. Many of them ended up at the coffee shop with me. Most of them, apparently, live in this fancy neighborhood, and it seems like this coffee shop is a regular destination post-drop off. I eavesdropped on the ladies in their yoga pants and sneakers, feeling out of place in work clothes and briefcase. “It goes so quickly,” one said to another. “Tell me about it. It seems like just last week, he was two.” I didn’t say it but I thought it: imagine how fast it goes when they’ve only been home 23 months!
Selam still doesn’t sleep well alone. It’s been nearly two years, but I can’t remember the last time I didn’t end up with her in my bed. When she comes in bed, at 2 or 3 in the morning, she always says “snuggle my belly, Mommy.” She likes me to wrap around her little tummy, anchoring her to the bed, to me, to what we are. Usually she rolls into me, puts her face next to mine, but not last night.
It was two when she came in, stomping as she ran into my room. “Snuggle my belly,” she said, and fell quickly back asleep. Maybe she was hot. Maybe she is growing. I don’t know. But she didn’t roll into me; she stretched her left hand up over her head, looking for all the world like she was hanging onto a bunch of helium balloons.
Someday she’ll drop the anchor. She should. I’ll be sad, of course, and proud, of course, and all those other things together. Someday her balloons will take her off and I’ll be watching from the ground. Until then, I’ll hold her little round tummy tight, while the balloons stretch her up, up, up, into the sweet beyond, tethered, loved, and forever mine.