In kindergarten, on the first day, the kid’s teacher pulled out a book I’d never seen and began to read. Something about racoons and kisses and hands. I was only vaguely paying attention, because as far as I was concerned, this day was about the kid, not twilight sneak thieves and their woodland hand washing protocol or whatever. It was, after all, kindergarten, so I was expecting a slightly smug little story about personal hygiene or at the very least about not eating all the paste. Sharing or some such. It was a new world.
As I slowly started to pay attention, I realized just how unfair that book is, the Kissing Hand. The teacher might as well have started the day by saying, “Welcome, children, welcome. Take a seat and marvel as I make all your parents break down into emotional, sobbing train wrecks. It’s going to be great!”
I watched today as the new kindergarten class filtered into the room — the blush of excitement, of nervousness, the cameras and phones ready. The places organized on the carpet for the children and the parents invited to circle around. A familiar book. The clearing of a throat.
“Run!” I wanted to whisper. “Just go now. You smile now but you don’t know what you’re in for!”
I turned just in time to watch the girl follow her new second grade teacher up the stairs — the second floor, home to the “big kids” now. No kisses. No waves goodbye. A circle of friends. A new classroom. Parents weren’t invited upstairs for a good cry. Instead, her stringy legs disappeared around the corner and that was that. Sure, raccoons can’t apparently get their hands out of locked garbage bins because they’re too stupid to unclench their fists or whatever, but they knew a thing or two about catharsis. I’ll give them that.
This. This was too sudden.
Dana remarked the other day about how much of our childhoods were spent following the school cycle and glorying in the endless laze of summer, and then wham, after college, the cycle suddenly ended and you found yourself in a workaday cubicle in mid-July, wondering when the bell would ring and realizing your big break was now two weeks, three if you were really lucky.
Then you have kids and the cycle returns and you’re grateful for the long summers again. You want to wrap your arms around the decadent idle. Because as much as you absolutely hated when busybodies confronted you and your infant at cafes and cried, “Ooohh, enjoy them now because they grow so fast!” you realize when you watch a whisper of too long legs disappear around the big kid staircase just how true that is, just how few cycles you have left, and you find yourself later in a house that’s too quite, staring at your hands for far too long.