It was a good day.
Not unlike most school days, from our household’s perspective. Despite my best efforts to be in the car by 8:15, it was more like 8:35, and the first bell rings at 8:45. (Well, it’s not like I could skip writing the girls notes for their lunch boxes, or not take pictures, and I had this awful blue nail polish on that I just had to get off before I could leave the house. Plus, Annabelle needed to put on the outfit she made famous on YouTube — minus the skirt, which wound up being several sizes too big. And Sophie had to be dressed just so, in Elmo panties and her First Day of School Outfit — a polkadotted affair from Baby Gap. Size 2T, and at that, it was hanging on her. They both looked beautiful.)
As we pulled up to the first crosswalk, several drops of rain appeared on the windshield. It had been unusually overcast. I don’t know why that was the trigger, but I took one look at that rain and started to cry.
There was little time for sentimentality. We zoomed in just before the bell rang, and a small disaster struck, but not the kid I expected. From the corner of my eye, i saw Mrs. Z on the playground, so I sent Annabelle to her, grabbed Sophie’s hand and went in search of Ms. X. After depositing Sophie in the classroom, I had a bad feeling, so I went looking for Annabelle. I crashed into her classroom, despite the fact that announcements were underway, to give her a hug. She was sniffling a little.
I wanted to say, “Oh, shit, sweetie, I’m terrified that this is the rest of your life — me chasing Sophie, you getting left in the dust.”
Instead, I kissed her and got out of there, amidst profuse apologies to Mrs. Z. Went back to Sophie’s room one more time, kissed her, and got out of there.
It was your typical first day of kindergarten bedlam. Every parent was freaked. Ms. X was zen. Been there, done that. I was happy to hear there were extra adults in the classroom, since Sophie was not the only one who needed, as it was later kindly explained to me, “a little redirection”.
Knowing Sophie wouldn’t behave with me in the vicinity, I retreated to the courtyard — and The Momfia.
I promise an entry devoted solely to this group (if you’ve got a school age kid, you’ve got your own) later. Today, we moms talked about summer vacations and the weather and which kid got which teacher. We inched closer and closer to the edge of campus, intent on leaving but unable to do it, finally hiding behind a wall to peer out and see the younger grades head into the cafeteria for assembly.
I felt like Harriet the Spy (more on her later, too). I caught glimpses of both girls — Sophie was holding a grown up’s hand, Annabelle was smiling — and finally, I was able to pull myself away. It felt like a big magnet was holding me there.
I won’t typically pick the girls up from school — that pesky fulltime job gets in the way, and today was the worst of days, I have a cover story coming out this week — but today was not negotiable. Late again (I swear I left on time, it was that damn construction that’s everywhere in metropolitan Phoenix these days) I skidded to a stop in front of Ms. X’s classroom.
Sophie was inside, with one of our favorite kids, a fourth grade girl. (The village thing worked perfectly — for day one, at least. So many kids already knew Sophie at school, she was a little rock star, finally arrived. Sat in the lap of a favorite second grader during assembly, I later heard.)
She looked up and smiled hugely and made me carry her back pack and lunch box. And then her, for most of the way to the car.
Later, Ms. X called, just to fill me in on the day. I love her. She must have been beyond exhausted, but she called. And get this: She was at WalMart, buying step stools. “Some of the kids can’t reach the sink in my classroom,” she said. Later I realized it’s probably Sophie who can’t reach; I bet the rest do just fine.
Ms. X told me about a little girl in the class who took an instant liking to Sophie, instigating play with her and looking out for her. Ms. X had a hunch, and she checked and was right — it was a child whose parents had written on their teacher-information form that she has an older brother with Down syndrome. This little girl took to Sophie instinctively.
My heart sang.
Ms. X also talked about taking Sophie to the bathroom. (Usually she’ll go to the nurse, but Ms. X wanted to see what would happen, I think.)
Sophie was okay til the end, when she insisted on wetting paper towels and rubbing her face.
“Time to go, Sophie,” Ms. X recalled telling her.
“Yes, Sophie, it’s time to put that away and go back to the classroom.”
Finally, Ms. X channeled her Inner Kindergarten Teacher — the one I’ve seen on a few occasions, the one that scares me a just a little in a good way — and said, “SOPHIE! TIME TO GO!”
Sophie looked up, put the paper towel down, and complied.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” I told Ms. X, and we both had a good laugh.