by Mary Ann Detzler
Today Cathy will be going to kindergarten. Cathy is my youngest and I am feeling nostalgic. If I had the courage to admit it, I'd say I'm feeling sad and a little scared. Why am I feeling this way? I didn't feel sad when Renata, her older sister, went to school. Why, I was excited and rejoiced about her new freedom.
It seems like yesterday that Cathy was such a quiet, contented baby. She was always a real joy to have around. She played quietly with her stuffed animals or our family dog. She and the dog loved to hide together under the blanket tent I'd throw over the big lounger chair.
Her life and mind would dramatically change now. She would be part of the world out there. I would have a harder time protecting her from the bumps and scrapes of life.
Perhaps I was being overprotective now because Cathy had been diagnosed at three as having a rare disease. No one but the family knew or even saw anything different about her.
I'm about to leave the kitchen to awaken Cathy for her big day. But here she comes, all bright eyes and smiles, dressed in new red plaid skirt and blouse. She gives me a big hug as we say our good mornings.
"Good morning, you're up early!" I greet her.
"Morning, Mom," is mumbled into my apron because of her big hug. "See Mom, I got dressed all by myself and even brushed my hair." She proudly twirls a pirouette to show me.
"But I can't put this ribbon in my hair." She hands me the brush, rubber band and red ribbon. I am amazed at how efficient she is this particular morning.
As I tend to her hair and ribbon, I ask her once more, "Would you like me to walk you to school this first day?"
I get the same answer as yesterday, "No, Mom, I can find my way all by myself. Renata, Leslie and I walked to the school yesterday and they showed me how to find the path through the woods right to the playground.
"And Mom, they have it all finished now and everything is brand new - the slide, swings and basketball hoops. It's going to be great!"
My reply to her enthusiasm is, "Stand still so I can finish your hair ribbon."
Then I gently push her toward the table. She quickly slides into her chair and attacks her breakfast. I turn back to the kitchen cupboards and take a deep breath, but it doesn't melt the lump in my throat or dull the ache in my chest.
I glance at the clock. "You can't leave before 8:30, so just slow down and chew your food."
In a few minutes she has finished that last drop of milk. Without prompting, she goes off to brush her teeth and comes back with her sweater.
"Is it time to go now?" she pleads.
"When this hand reaches 6," I point out to her on the clock.
I tentatively venture for the umpteenth time, "You're sure you don't want me to walk you to school?"
"No, Mom, I want to go alone." She goes out onto the deck to call to the dog and check the back yard.
"Is it time now?" She is hopping up and down.
With a sigh, I say, "Yes, dear."
I give her a big lingering hug, and off she races down the split-level stairs and out the front door. Standing at the top of our stairs, I can watch through the window. She is running down the sidewalk. Then suddenly she stops, turns and races back toward the house. "Oh, no," I think, expecting to have to change out of slippers for a walk to school after all.
The front door bangs open and up the stairs she flies to throw her little arms around me and press her cheek into my tummy. The long tight hug ends as she turns her eyes up to mine and seriously proclaims, "You'll be all right, Mom. I'll be home at noon."
Then off she dashes into her new world of school adventures, excited and happy to be graduating from babyhood. My misty eyes follow her progress to the end of our walk. She turns around again and waves to me. I wave back and find I can now smile.
The lump in my chest has melted as I think about her display of love. Yes, I will be all right as I go on to my own adventures. This is my graduation day, too.