When I walked in the school doors, this image often greeted me. True, it might not be the same white jacket, but it was always a tiny jacket in comparison to the rest hanging on the lost and found rack. The rack was positioned–seemingly in my path–to ensure I could recover whatever was lost by my child. But, I can’t. And that is what caused me sorrow each time I walked in the door, many, many times over the last few years.
I don’t know when this “sight” began to trigger a deep sadness, but it began as my daughter’s clothing grew to fit her growing body. Perfectly etched in my memory, is the first day of school. Anna looked so small compared to the huge fifth graders. She was so innocent, and I was turning her over to a school–teachers I’d never met, lots of other children…BIG children–and walking away. I don’t think I cried. I’m not much of a cryer and I don’t think I’m very nostalgic either…but, I guess I have been with this chapter in our lives.
It’s been brewing over the last few years and crescendoed with the last of this and the last of that over this school year. Maybe it’s partly from my troubled childhood. Or maybe it is because I observed she stopped requesting my hand, on the walk home from school. No hugs in public, at least most of the time. More independence…both gladly and reluctantly given. Less innocence…(not glad)! Still, my “little” girl surely lives on in her size 10 shoe.
More than these changes, it was the last time meeting with my Mom’s-in-Prayer group that I prayed weekly with for years and the last time reading to Anna’s class, and the last time walking in the doorway of her school and seeing the little jacket and once picture ladened bulletin boards, stripped bare for next year’s students. After six years, next years pictures would not include Anna’s. She will be somewhere else.
On Wednesday, Anna’s teacher invited me into the classroom for one last reading on Thursday. The requested time slot wasn’t available and that was what triggered the tears. Loss upon loss. I cried a quick prayer.
Broken, I sat on my front porch, and poured out my heart and tears to my husband. He put his arm around me, and listened. My girlfriends knew, but telling my sweet, strong spouse, who will listen and care, but not quite “get it” was what I needed in the process to move forward. We know he’s not a mind reader. Many gifts, but that isn’t one. So, I share, even when it is hard.
Amazingly, after my quick prayer to God, within minutes, my Thursday morning meeting, the conflict, was cancelled. Open door.
More than ever, I savored the time as the children cheered me on to keep reading. Six years of reading to these amazing, beautiful, precious children. A victory of loss redeemed. When I was in first or second grade, I was so terrified to read, that when a teacher called on me to stand up and read to the class, the page went blank. As an adult and before Anna, I worked to overcome that fear I had lived with since that time. I’m so glad I did! The ability to read out loud, turned into a treasure beyond measure. The last reading was a good gift from her teacher and from God, that I couldn’t have know would be so special.
Before I left on Thursday, the kids attempted to hold their teacher accountable for a treat she offered earlier in the year. She as unsure if she could honor their request. The next day, was the last full day of school, full of activities. I offered to make it happen and yesterday, when I walked in the door, and saw the little white jacket, I smiled. Joy replaced sorrow. We celebrated over a treat, a right of passage.
I can say that I’ve lingered over the “lasts” this year. Yes, there are many losses and yes, at times I will still be sad, but I am looking forward to what new things will be found, in the years to come.