“Mummy, I can’t sleep. My mind is going really fast and my tummy feels sick.”
I did what every parent does and murmured soothing half-truths to urge her head back onto her pillow. I gave her a sip of water and stroked her hair.
We’d already picked her dress out. Her backpack was waiting at the foot of the stairs.
Grade 1 at a new school.
How had the routine of life brought us here already?
“…But I don’t want to be a big girl, Mom. I don’t. I just wish it was still summer. Why does this have to happen?”
I held her close, despite the stifling heat. “Is there anything that is making you feel yucky?”
“Not yucky, Mom. Frustrated, sad, mad, and just… I just want. I’m just so blago.”
I nod sympathetically. Who, after all hasn’t felt that?
“You know honey, I’m pretty sure that everyone is feeling a bit blago right now. Even teachers. Even mommies.”
“But I’m the new kid. What if they ask me a question? What if they say “Well where are you from anyways, new kid?”
“What do you think you would say?”
“I’m Vee. I live right over there. And I know the monkey bars really well.”
It’s 2:30am and she has curled into my lap, trying desperately to keep her eyes open.
I put my hand out and she grasps it with perfect long fingers.
“Mummy,” she says quietly “you need to make sure I have my red boots. For Supergirl. I’m wearing that tomorrow.”
My heart aches sweetly as she drifts to sleep in my arms, and I smell her freshly washed hair.
In the morning, everything passes quickly— she is dressed, she has eaten, her face has been washed and her hair brushed.
I want time to stop so I can say something wise, but somehow nothing comes out. And then it’s time to go and we are holding hands and walking down the stairs, my heart hammering faster than hers.
As we take a picture to send to our family, we can already see the slow and steady migration of children to the schoolyard.
She swallows hard, and her hand tightens in mine.
“You see honey? Everyone is having this exciting time. Everyone is having a first day.”
My voice falters and she looks right through me.
All too soon she is lined up in front of her new teacher, ready to file into her classroom.
For less than a second I lose sight of her and feeling panicked, I search for her dress and backpack in the crowd. If I can just see her face one more time I’ll be ok. She’ll be ok. Just let me see her…
She looks small somehow, but her chin is set to that determined angle I know so well and finally we lock eyes.
There is excitement; there is the thrill of another first.
She flashes me a grin that is at once shy and set to conquer.
And just like that her golden strands with their telltale black smudge, disappear into a new adventure.