This morning, after Maria brushed her hair, I approached her with hair bands, "I'll braid your hair, if you'd like." She smiled eagerly. Her hair has been short, too short for more than head bands, but I managed two braids that just touch her shoulders.
It's pajama day, and she didn't have her twenty pound backpack to bring in, just a few books, one for Ms G, one for the library, and To Kill a Mockingbird, because she is so close to finishing it, she cannot put it down. Tom Robinson has been shot, seventeen times, in the back, and Maria is beside herself. He's the mockingbird, she tells me, tearfully. And I think of the talk we will have about how some things have not changed, that we still need to be observant, talk, stand up for justice. It's not as easy to come to school in your pajamas when you are in sixth grade, as it was when you were in second or fourth. I walked ahead, to peek, to let her know if anyone else came in their pjs. Few did, I was sorry to report. She squared her shoulders, sighed. I resisted the urge to fiddle with the collar of her soft flannel top, the one with the owls. It's her last day in elementary school, and it's all gone by too quickly. Even when we have the best intentions, when we will ourselves to be observant, focused, time moves, and we cannot turn events back, rarely do we have second chances. Nothing I could do, or say, was making this last morning drop-off last longer, go more slowly. There will not be another, not here, not in pigtails, and pajamas, in sixth grade.
Today is Maria's last day, and tomorrow is promotion. I finally made her the year book I have been meaning to make for her every year since first grade. I've wanted her to have pictures from field trips, clubs, presentations, and play, her friends, her accomplishments, good times in school. I filled it with pictures from first through sixth grade, and call it her years book. This one gesture feels so satisfying to have made... it took a long time to assemble, and well, I just feel relief and gratitude having done it. On the other hand, I feel weighed down with thoughts of all the things I have not accomplished, the good intentions, bright ideas, and grand schemes that have accumulated, but have gone too long neglected to be finished before tomorrow. Regrets are heavy, but I want to feel light... I want Maria to feel light. Her years book is big, and brimming with hundreds, if not thousands of moments, only a fraction of all the good days and meaningful events that she's experienced, created, enjoyed through grade school, at home, with loved ones. And I... I have been there, a lucky mom, a thankful parent, to see so much of it, to take those pictures, and share in those memories. There is nothing much to regret, when all is said and done.
The time Maria has passed at her school has been good, integral to what she loves, feels, relishes, admires and respects, and cannot go unobserved. In other words, I will cry tomorrow, and probably today, as well. It's hard not to feel emotional, to expect that we will miss the walkways and gardens, the familiar faces, the anticipation of the next project or activity, the friends, the connections. Plus... I accidentally overheard a rehearsal, and it was beautiful, too compelling to walk away from. I moved in closer, instead, and listened to all of the sixth grade class practicing their song for promotion. It was angelic, stirring. Even in these cynical times, even when I'd rather appear as composed and collected, I felt my skin tingle, and tears pool. Where is that place, in ourselves, where emotions rise in a physical expression that cannot be suppressed?
I am not inclined to build all of this up, as though finishing grade school is a pinnacle, an ultimate culmination of where she's come from, where she is, where she's going. We have plans. She has plans. We welcome the next day, month, year. Looking back, it's lovely to have had so much that we can appreciate and commend from these grade school years, but I take care to remind her that ahead there are more books, more projects, more challenges, theories, adventures, prizes, losses, gains, and connections to be made. And as eagerly as we anticipate what lies ahead, neither do we need to hurry, to hasten our arrival at benchmark moments, or mark our progress by societal conventions and norms. I don't know, but maybe these words, these deep thoughts and other musings, are just a means of breathing, of slowing myself down to consider what matters most, to figure all of this out. I've got all of these emotions rising in a physical expression, and my brain is trying to put it all in order.
And life goes on. There's no time to revise my deep thoughts, and other musings. The refrigerator got cleaned out, so naturally, there are mountains of containers and dishes that need cleaning and sorting. I played both Pride and Prejudice, and Chocolat in a marathon of laundry folding, but there's still more to do. Clear the car, dash off for chicken feed, and make something of these flowers! Right. Because with a mess of a home, a cold to get over, and out of town guests arriving, I thought, felt... absolutely could not help visiting the flower growers, so I could make bouquets, maybe a little floral crown. There. You see? I am perfectly in my right mind, and not the least bit inclined to build things up, or weigh myself down with bright ideas and grand schemes. Flower crown, clean house, de-cluttered car, and fed chickens, by bedtime.
Here we go...
With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.