The Last Day
One summer weekend, when I was eleven years old, my father and I were stuck with nothing to do at my grandparents "cottage" on Big Wolf Lake in Michigan. (It was not so much a cottage as a house-trailer with a large sun-porch attached. The important thing was its proximity to the lake, and, presumably, its distance from my father and grandfather's law practice.)
On that particular weekend, it was raining. It rained and rained for two days straight. There was no television at the cottage, and no other children to play with. My grandmother and I probably played several rounds of gin rummy, but, other than that, all there was to do was read. (Although reading was and is a past-time to which all members of my family are quite devoted.) I soon finished the book I had brought with me, and clamored for something else to read.
Somewhere in the trailer, my dad found a battered copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I think he said something like, 'here, you might like this, it's about a little girl in Brooklyn."
I tore into the book with the enthusiasm that only a little girl with a passion for reading can muster for a new reading adventure. I was quickly transported, from my rainy Michigan lake weekend, to turn of the century Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the world of Francie Nolan. I could not put the book down. For two days I buried myself in those battered pages.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I read that book twenty times over the following decade. It was my go-to comfort book. When I was frustrated, angry, sad, or melancholy, I lost myself in Ms. Smith's masterpiece.
There is a quote from the book that has always stayed with me. The quote comes from a section of the book, towards the end, wherein Francie is leaving her job and her family in Brooklyn, because she has won a scholarship to go to college at the University of Michigan.
The quote is this:
This is the quote I was thinking about as I walked away from Lana's pre-school after dropping her off for the last time, this morning, that I was seeing the school with an amazing clarity, and thinking that there should be so many MORE schools like this.
My children have attended this daycare-center/pre-school since Gabriel was 11-weeks old. It was the second week of May, 2000, when I brought Gabriel to the school for the first time, and today I took my daughter there for the last time.
I was distraught when Gabriel "graduated" from the school's kindergarten program in 2006, but, at that time, I felt certain that our family would be back at the school, soon enough, with our daughter.
But, this morning, as I walked out, I knew it was the end. The last day. The last time I would drop off a child of mine at this place that has become so very special to me, the place and the people who helped to shape Gabe into the interesting little boy he is, the place and the people that have helped Lana to blossom in amazing and indescribable ways in the last 15 months.
As I walked down the school hallway this morning, I felt like the words, "the last time, the last time, the last time" were ringing in my ears. I ran into a teacher in the parking lot, a teacher who spent 3 years with Gabe and most of the last 15 months with Lana. She was walking in as I was walking out, and I saw her and just started crying. I spoke to her briefly, about how Lana has come so far in such a short time, how the scared, angry little girl we had brought there in February of 2007 had become such a joyful, mischievous little minx. I gave her a hug and I got in my car and I cried all the way to work.
I tried to get the mascara and eyeliner cleaned up, but, I have to think that the divorce client I met with at 10:00 AM must have thought it was assuredly odd that his divorce lawyer had clearly spent a good part of the morning crying her eyes out.
Lana will spend the summer at home with her dad and her brother. She may spend two mornings a week in a "growing minds" program to keep her English and socialization skills improving. And at summer's end, she will begin kindergarten at the public school.
I only wish that I my kids could have continued their elementary education in the kind of environment provided by their progressive pre-school. We have an excellent public school, but, I am quoting another parent, when comparing our elementary school options to the preschool that served all children so well, "the public school is nice, but, it is not joyful."
And I think that pretty much says everything, doesn't it?
I'm grateful for this school, and what it has done for my children. But it was so hard, this very last day, to walk away.