The (Kindergarten) Graduate

Oh, man, you guys. My heart yesterday broke into a million, squamillion, gajillion pieces. It was the second to last day of Kindergarten for my baby girl, and so she came off the bus with a paper bag full of her journey through her first year in school. In the space of ten months, she became a reader, a mathematician, a writer. She went from this:

to this: 

As I poured through the papers she brought home, the books she had made, the stories she wrote, the pictures she drew, her first year unfolded before my eyes. She grew so much as a person this year, with me and without me. I let her out of my sight for 8 hours a day,  five days a week and entrusted her to the care of people who did not hold her when she was born. As I placed everything neatly back into the folders that Alice had unceremoniously dumped out onto the living room floor, all I could think was, “How amazing her teachers are. I must thank them.” Who stapled and laminated all these books? Who organized all these folders? Who made her Kindergarten yearbook with the plastic spiral-bound?  The teachers in her classroom nurtured and encouraged this little big girl of mine, and we are so very lucky to be in this amazing school, with such amazing people. 
{I thought about how, had we stayed in the Bronx, there was probably no way I would have this amazing cache of artifacts documenting Alice’s first year of school. In the city school that we were zoned for, Alice would’ve been in a class of 25 kindergartners and one overwhelmed teacher. Here, she was in a class of sixteen kids and her teachers-plural! teachers!- got to know her very well. Don’t tell me class size doesn’t matter. It matters.}

I don’t really remember being five. I remember my classroom, I kind of remember my teacher and I remember some of my friends. I remember Hurricane Gloria. I remember being in a bus accident. But I don’t remember being five. I don’t remember learning to read or learning to write. I don’t remember what it felt like to be five. But I look at Alice. Her ups and her downs, her struggle to figure things out, to understand who she is in the world. I look at her and  I understand. I get her in a way that no one else can or will because I see myself. I look at the emotions on her face and I know what she is feeling because I have felt them, too. Watching Alice navigate five has filled in the gaps in my own memory.

But don’t get me wrong. Alice is distinctively Alice. The world she is moving through is very different from the one I experienced. Her family life is so very different. When I was this age,  five going on six, my parents were divorcing, my mother had come out as a lesbian, my father had moved out of the house, and my mother’s future wife was moving into our house with her two kids. I was transitioning from special ed into a mainstream classroom.  I was oblivious to the world around me, in part because of my deafness.  Alice, on the other hand, is all ears and tuned into the world. Her life is all song, all the time. She has close girlfriends and a boy-friend. She’s so much more sophisticated than I ever was, sometimes to my mortification, but mostly in a precocious way. Her family life is simple– the oldest of three, a set of married parents, and her cousins across town to play with.

As of today, my kindergartner is a first grader. I am the mother of a first grader. She will move out of the Kindergarten wing. She will eat lunch in a cafeteria. She will read chapter books on her own and learn how to multiply. She will become more of herself, more Alice.

I hope she will write more things like this:

My mom likes pink cupcakes. My mom is Jewish. My mom loves me. 

Micah is my brother. Micah likes milk. Micah like sleeping.

Stella is my sister. She loves the playground. My sister likes to go to school. Stella is 3. 

I have a cat. My cat loves balls of string. My cat likes birds. My cat once ate a bluebird. 

My dad loves work. My dad snores. My dad loves computers. 

8 thoughts on “The (Kindergarten) Graduate”

  1. She is wonderfully Alice. When I met her she must have been only almost two! Eep! Well Scarlet was only 10 months.
    I remember being five well and it was such a different experience than Scarlet will surely have. And I love the way you tied in your own story of Alice being all ears.
    She's a great kid! We could all go to Hope & Olive. Sigh. Come visit.

  2. I loved the love I felt in your writing for being a mother and someone who appreciates learning. BRAVO MOM and DAUGHTER!!!!!

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