I put her on the bus at the end of the block, went directly home to load the two girls and myself into the van and “follow that bus“.
She bumped along on that green vinyl seat with a new friend. She checked out the first graders right behind her, the second graders behind them and on until the bus was bookended with high schoolers.
She watched out that wide window, past the railroad tracks, past the silos, past the silky yellow fields, to the gigantic butter-coloured school off in the fields. This would be her new half-home.
I would grieve it, or celebrate it, as I thought, by chasing that bus with my camera in ready position. I’d balance it on top of the steering wheel, sticking it out of the side window, photographing those few miles for the record book. This was a momentous day. She would begin her journey of independence, at six.
Just 1, 990 days before, she travelled a different path: the neighbourhood from the hospital to her cradle in our apartment. Just 1, 990 days before she fed because I brought her to me, she bathed because daddy brought her to the foldable tub on the dresser, she slept because I held her. Her days of dependence were beginning to come to a close.
When I’d pulled that minivan into the school parking lot, I slowly crept by the bus to capture her first descent off those three black steps…click click click. “Good job, Hannah“, I yelled. I’m not sure what I thought she’d done. It was me that should have been congratulated. I’d managed to stay on the road with two squirming little cookies buckled in back while I perilously photographed my eldest on her first day of school.
Fast forward six years: my youngest is getting his hair cut. The stylist asks how I want his hair prepared for his first day of kindergarten. Hmm, kindergarten? But he’s four. The cut-off date is January, she tells me. The parent can decide whether he goes to kindergarten now. It’s your choice.
Hmm. Somehow that slipped me by. What with three older sisters, the fact that I’m not thinking in grades anymore…rather I’m pursuing their education based on interests and trying to decide what I think is important to share with them.
Kindergarten. Days of play centers, introductions to line-ups and bagged lunches, letter sounds and counting manipulatives. Reading stories at the foot of the teacher, quiet times resting on blankies and recess on the swings.
I’ll skip the mile-drive camera in hand this time. I’ll simply photograph him.
Those first 1, 990 days slipped silkily through my fingers like one long night. I’ll try to keep a closer watch on the next 1, 990 days, and keep him by my side.