This morning was the last day of my daughter's preschool class; as it was a special day, and a bittersweet one at that, it was a session primarily without restraints. The kids needed it, the parents needed it, and the teachers needed it.
A lot of the parents worked; I took the reigns in the kitchen. Instead of a set snack time, the kids were allowed to wander into the kitchen and nibble whenever they wanted. I scoured the cupboards and the refrigerator, gathering foodstuff that wouldn't survive the lonely summer months without the laughter of children echoing beyond the closed door of their dark shelves.
I set a table as if I were entertaining company; because really, I was. In the center I arranged bowls overflowing with pretzels and popcorn and sliced apples and goldfish and raisins and all manner of yummy preschool delights. In a nod to being a bit fancy, I schmeared generous amounts of cream cheese on flour tortillas, rolled them up, cut them sushi style, and decorated a platter with them (the kids weren't impressed, but the other volunteering parents gobbled them up).
As I scavenged, cut, poured, rolled and decorated, I watched through the kitchen windows at the children playing outside. There were games played, faces painted, tokens liberally handed out which were then exchanged for "prizes," and of course plenty of cameras flashing.
My daughter flew around the yard, her golden hair (which, par for the course, she refused to allow me to capture in a a pony tail as we got ready for our day), flying behind her. She clutched a paper bag with her name on it; when she first found it in her cubby she wanted nothing to do with it, but once she understood it would soon be filled with trinkets, she was all over it.
She had a rainbow painted on her forehead; that fact made me thrilled because it was a testament to how she's blossomed over the past months. The shy little girl who had started in this school last fall, no matter how much she might have wanted to join in, would have never gathered around a table begging, "Me next! Me next!"
When the morning was drawing to a close, I cleaned up the kitchen and joined my daughter and her class on the big carpet, to gather round for one last time to sing songs and say good-bye. Almost every child was sitting on the lap of a parent; as I looked around I realized how lucky these children are to be in a community with such active and involved parents.
Songs were sung, dances danced, smiles and hugs exchanged.
When it came time for the last song, it was one I hadn't heard before at our school. At first it seemed like another sweet preschool song, which it is...but it isn't just another sweet preschool song. As I listened to the teacher sing, and I allowed to words to seep in, I realized it was a love song she was singing to each and every one of our children, and the class as a whole.
"I remember when you couldn't count to three.
I remember when you were only as high as my knee.
I remember when you were learning how to sit.
I will always love you, every little bit."
Her voice was cracking, and she was putting up a valiant effort against the tears that were straining to be released. The tears were coursing down mine as soon as I looked at her and understood how hard it was for her to let this class go. Around me a lot of the mothers and fathers were also reaching for tissues.
I stayed around late, along with some of the other working parents, to help clean up. When it was time for us to leave, I hugged my daughter's teacher good-bye, and gave her a smooch on her cheek. I resisted the urge to go all European on her and kiss her other cheek, and back again,
"Thank you so much for all you've done this year," she said in her gorgeous Parisian accent.
I think I was able to squeak out my own thank-yous without shedding too many tears.