When I was a little girl I lived on Hickory Lane. There was a field near our house that I loved disappearing to. It was, to my young eyes, enormous, a wide expanse of promise filled brush. I would run out, far enough to feel deliciously free, but not so far that I couldn’t get back home before whatever evil might be lurking in the shadows leapt out at me. I would spend hours fashioning homesteads, hunting magic creatures and hiding from passing cars.
Briar has found a field.
She just finished preschool, an event that drove home how fast she is growing and how despite her quest for independence, she is still a very, little girl. The last day of school was something I’ve not even tried to write about, the tears so forceful and the quake of her shoulders continuing well into the night. Her heartbreak took everyone by surprise and continues to laps at the edges of our days.
Reading a note from her teacher today, we were reduced to tears, “But why can’t I see her anymore?” She asked.
“Honey, you can. You can visit,” I explained, underlining the place on the card where her teacher had said as much.
“But why can’t she be my teacher anymore?” Her eyes bore into me, reminding me of the first teacher I had, Miss. Thompson, a five year old girl’s answer to a rock star.
“Well, once you start school, that’s what happens. You have a new teacher each year.” She looked at me, waiting to see if I meant it, when she saw that I wasn’t going to say anymore her face crumpled.
“But I love her. I love her so much. She’s. She’s. She’s my teacher,” and the rest was muffled as she buried her face in my neck.
I swallowed hard and felt a flutter, this is just the first.
This fall she’ll start kindergarten. She asks new questions each day,
“Will there be line leader jobs in kindergarten?”
“Will the teacher know my name?”
“D’ya think we’ll learn the letters of the school?”
I answer as I can, occasionally choosing my responses in ways that I think will make her happier or prepare her for differences. The wound of not having communicated clearly enough that school was ending weighs on me.
The field I find her disappearing to is a place that suspends her between baby and child. I both understand and am exhausted by this place. She slips behind layers of fear and need, running to me, hiding behind my legs. I stroke and soothe, shush and encourage.
“Mama, carry me,” she’ll say in a whisper.
“Honey, I can’t. I’ve got Fin,” I’ll say, or worse, “Honey, why are you asking me that? You are a big girl.” I agonize over this, knowing that she’ll never be smaller than she is today. She is a big girl, and yet she is my baby.
There are times as she traverses this field that she pushes me away. The first blush of embarrassment of me and for me. I hold her sinewy body in my arms and want her to stay, but she twitches, her neck craning literally and figuratively for something more. A pretty girl. A playground. A project, teacher, classmate or party.
I can feel her pulling away, but managing her own tether, something that keeps her tied to me, if only for a thin veil of protection from that which she is not quite sure of. I want to be here or there or wherever she needs me. I want to be ok as I hear the whispers of the girl ahead and as I hear the whispers of the girl who is here now, mama, will you cuddle with me?
I hope that I can understand the whispers between the rustles of school days and bedtime. I want to make sure she knows I am here, on the periphery of her field, always willing to pick her up or drop her off no matter how old she is.