Every school smells the same. It's a mix of bologna sandwiches, mixed-fruit cups, the gymnasium, books and industrial cleaners. They all look the same, too, with painted cinder block walls, tile floors, crepe paper borders surrounding laminated letters announcing the current season and all its wonders.
Last Friday my little family walked into an elementary school so that my daughter could participate in Kindergarten Roundup. With each step up the front stairs, C. held tighter to my pants leg. Which was fine with me. I wanted to scoop her up and run back home. But we went through the double doors, my past mingling with my daughter's future. This is her school
, soon to be, aside from her home, my daughter's most significant place, her teacher to become the usurper to my rightful place as the source of all wisdom.
We sat down with our paperwork in the cafeteria. Soon two blond braids were in a line leading out the door to visit the library, the gym, the music room. We parents stayed behind and listened to the principal, the kindergarten teachers, the school nurse and the PTA president give their speeches.
I wanted them to tell me how they could already see what a special child C. is, how bright and kind, how well-mannered and thoughtful. Surely they would describe their educational philosophy, give examples of their many successes, delight us all with their unparalleled dedication to their craft and, most importantly, to my daughter.
What they did was describe the supplies our kids would need, when to keep our children at home if they're sick, the papers we would receive and the type of work the kids would be doing. They did all seem quite committed to their jobs, excited to be teachers, happy to see our kids. But in the left corner of the cafeteria sat a man who desperately needed to know that his daughter would be OK
at that school, that she would make friends, that she would learn not only about things, but about the joy that learning itself can be. That she would always be safe. That we would be able to work together to develop her full potential.
In that left corner of the bologna and fruit cup cafeteria sat a man who has always celebrated his daughter's milestones and looked forward to the next. This man who has scoffed at those who "wish kids could stay babies" or some such nonsense. This man in the left corner of a blue-painted cinder block cafeteria who sat there, trembling, as he fought to hold back the tears, to quiet the fears and worries welling up within him because his daughter, his intelligent, considerate, witty and beautiful center of his world, the summation of all that is good and pure, the living, walking symbol of God's grace at work, this little girl is going to start Kindergarten on August 20, 2007.
On that day I will die, just a little bit; a part of me will be no more. And a new part of me will be born that day. Every death and all births are painful, even the small ones.Especially
the small ones.