29 Sep Beginnings x 2
On the first day of school, Mrs. Gallagher stood at the door of nursery school, greeting families, some new and others very familiar. She remembered us from our interview. “Sheila and Charlie, we’re so happy to have you.”
I smiled and Charlie said, “Remember the bunnies in that room you showed us?”
“I do, Charlie. You will see them again, later on.” Mrs. Gallagher pointed out Charlie’s classroom, and he eagerly walked down the wide hallway. Parents smiled. The children looked relaxed and happy to be there.
Charlie’s teachers, Susie and Barrett, welcomed Charlie and me generously. Their smiling faces were comforting. Holding his hands, they walked Charlie into the sunny classroom, and I followed. Susie showed me where to put Charlie’s extra clothes. Barrett pointed to some cool orange rubber fish in the water table, which Charlie loved immediately. It felt like a wonderful class.
I hugged Charlie goodbye and he easily let me go. “Goodbye Mommy.”
“Goodbye sweetheart. Thank you, Susie and Barrett.” I left with a great feeling. Glancing back, I saw Charlie talking to another boy as they swam their fish around the little pool.
Mrs. Gallagher was still at the door. “Sheila, I hope you are getting used to our town.”
“I am, thanks. Just a few thousand boxes to unpack…”
When I got into my car, Charlie’s tattered Pooh bear was on the car seat, and his favorite CD was softly playing. Suddenly I felt really sad. I drove through a beautiful park, seeing nothing. I put on the windshield wipers, not realizing it wasn’t raining. My tears were causing the blur.
We had recently moved out of New York City to a house with a yard and a garden.
Charlie had loved the summer, with painters and carpenters coming and going in our new house. He wanted to bring them water and cookies to help them work in the heat. In the kitchen, Charlie’s little blue and white cereal bowl and toy cars brought on a second surge of tears. When the phone rang, I knew I had to compose myself a bit. It was my husband, Will.
“Hi darling. I just wanted to know how Charlie’s first morning went.”
“Will, Charlie was absolutely wonderful. His teachers seem lovely. His classroom is big and sunny and he already has a friend. But I’m just a mess. Will, what’s wrong with me? I’m blubbering nut.”
“Sheila, of course you’re sad. Charlie has been such a cozy companion to you all summer. We’re in a new town, and you don’t know people yet. Things will be happier for you soon. I can help with the boxes this weekend. Let’s go to the beach tonight for a while, what do you say? We can pick up those great sandwiches on the way.”
“I love you, Will. That sounds great. Thank you for calling.”
I felt suddenly a thousand times better. The kitchen was looking more like a place where cooking could happen. I felt sure I could tackle a few boxes before noon. I knew Charlie always loved to have a happy plan, something to look forward to. Will had just created one for both of us.
Knowing we would be going to the beach galvanized me. Dishes flew onto shelves. I filled the linen closet with sheets and towels. Walking into Charlie’s room, I felt hopeful about our new life, even as I missed him.
As I neatened his bed, I realized I had just enough time to pick a few flowers for his teachers before pick up.
Noon dismissal was wild. Cars were everywhere. I parked and spotted Charlie in his navy and white striped shirt in the sandbox. I walked to him past mothers who were smiling and hugging each other. Charlie looked up. “Hi Mommy! School is fun. I saw the bunnies. My teachers sing and they like me.”
I felt so lucky that Charlie hadn’t sensed my deep sadness in letting him go. More than anything, I was happy that Charlie hadn’t been upset for even a minute. Feeling close to Charlie would stay with me through the mornings while he was at school.
“Mommy, when I washed my hands for snack, I was thinking of a happy plan. Do you want to go to the beach when Daddy comes home? Remember those good sandwiches we got when Gaga visited?”
“How funny! Daddy called and suggested the same thing. Ready to go?”
Charlie stood and brushed off his shorts. “Yes! Let’s say goodbye to my teachers and my new friends.”
I took his hand and kissed it. “Let’s give your teachers these flowers.”
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 40+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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