Last night, with my face buried in the pillow, I wept tears I hadn’t expected. I’ve spent the last week buying the necessary supplies and planting little seeds preparing Briar for starting pre-K. There have been beautiful essays around the net, tales of sending kids off on the bus or walking them into class rooms. Some have made me misty, others have made me laugh, but I haven’t been crippled by the prospect of this milestone.

Until last night.

I realized that yesterday afternoon was the last of its kind. I could go on and on about the things I realized I would lose, but it was something else that pierced me, the slipping of these particular grains of sand through the hourglass. The day was over and the memory of it could never be changed. Would I be ok with that?

Yesterday afternoon played out like many before, the girls alternately playing and squabbling. They asked for a show, I complied. A snack? Strawberries and cheese. Costumes? Silky nightgowns and jewelry. They asked for Play Doh and I pulled out the large bag of brightly colored tubs. Once all the gear was set out I arranged my laptop at the table to work alongside Briar. A minute passed and Briar asked me to roll out her Play Doh. Normally this grates on my nerves, Play Doh and painting being two activities that tend to generate more work than fun, the clean up lasting far longer than the actual play time. I had no aspirations of perfect momdum yet I did it.

“Sure. How wide do you want me to roll it?” I asked. And she beamed back at me as she said, “As biggest as you can roll it, k?”

After Play Doh there was water play, coloring and then more coloring. After a time I went back to working on the computer.

“Mom?” they were both standing at the edge of the table.

“Girls, mom has to work. You have to find an activity.” I said just short of snapping.

“Mom, can we go outside? Do you think that would be a good idea to play on the swings and slide?” Briar asked with her head tilted to one side.

“Yeah, dat would be funny and a gweat idea,” chirped a grinning Ave.

A frustrated response passed through my mind, but was gone before I could give it a voice.

“Sure, that’s a great idea.” I said.

We went outside and played. Finley slept in her swing and the girls ran around the yard, alighting on one thing and then another. We romped until the bugs chased us inside. As we walked through the house Briar asked me to read several labels and book spines.

“But what’s it say?”

“What’s that?”

“What does that one mean?”

“Does the “o” do the same thing in that word as in “mom”?

She went on and on, and I never once tuned out or uh-huhed her. I shuddered with exasperation, giggled in my sleeve and made snarky asides in my head about how it would soon be Sean’s turn, but I never cracked.

As the afternoon replayed in my head I wept with relief, not that Briar would be somewhere else the next day, but that in my last day with her I was there, really there. The tears came hot and fast, my body began to shake as I muffled my sobs in the pillow. I haven’t done that bad after all. Then I cried harder, Will I ever get to help her again? Is she still going to need me?

The house was summer still with crickets chirping and gauzy curtains fluttering in front of gently whirring fans. I stared at the ceiling and took a deep breath, resolving to be ok with this new place. Sean padded into the room and looked at me gently. Tears welled as I looked at his bare shoulders, remembering Briar’s face against his skin before her first bath. Taking a ragged breath I braced for the next round of tears, but stopped.

“Mom. MOM!” I was up and down the hall before she called out a third time. I slipped into bed beside her and pressed my lips to her ear. “Mama’s here. I love you, baby.” She sighed, hooked her arm around my neck and fell back to sleep.

I think I can do this.