I’m writing this blog post on a Tuesday evening. It’s been thirteen weeks since our lives took a sharp, unexpected turn off the beaten path, through a barbed wire fence, down the side of a rocky mountain, and over an uncared-for pasture full of ground hog and molehills. Oh, and fire ants. Definitely fire ants. Mounds and mounds of fire ants.
Anyway, I digress.
So I’m writing this post on a Tuesday evening. Thirteen weeks later. And my daughter had her first psychopathic, ugly cry, melt down over, you know, that thing that happened to us thirteen weeks ago.
The day started innocent enough. Okay, no it didn’t. It’s been a shitty week (already). It’s been a shitty two weeks. You see, my daughter’s “graduation” from elementary school is this upcoming Friday. (June 17. Figured I should clarify since this will be posted on the twenty-second, and nobody wants to still be in school on June 22.)
You would think this would be an exciting, monumental event. Monumental, yes. Exciting, welllllllll… Perhaps I should explain.
My daughter has been part of this elementary school family since she was five. She is now about to turn eleven. So, for half her life, this group of teachers, administrators, parents, kids have been part of her life. An important part of her life. Her extended family. This school, this community we live in, it’s not one of those stand off-ish, everybody-do-your-own-thing kind of places to live. Nope. It’s one of those hi-I-see-you-just-moved-in-five-minutes-ago-nice-to-meet-you kind of communities.
Some people may not like that. Me? I LUV it.
This neighborhood, the one I moved into fifteen years ago with my newlywed husband, it’s… just awesome. When we moved in it was largely elderly folk, people who had lived here since they were newlyweds. Remember that Back to the Future when Marty went back in time and met his parents before they became a couple? Remember that neighborhood, outside of which the DeLorean landed, the one that was just being built? The beginning of suburban sprawl? Yeah, that’s my neighborhood.
Fifty years later, and half the homes are still owned by those same newlyweds who bought the houses while they were in the process of being built. The rest are owned by the next generation, families like mine (we bought ours from the original owners). With kids who are all roughly the same age. Parents, too. We became friends while sniffling into tissues at our kids’ kindergarten orientations, and here we are, however-many-years later. Still hanging out. Still friends. Still neighbors. Still watching out for each other’s kids.Still embracing that “it takes a village” concept.
The elementary school our kids go to has exactly the same attitude. Probably because, yeah, all our kids go there. We expect no less.
And this year, more than any other, that attitude feels like it’s been multiplied by a thousand. My neighbors, my friends, my daughter’s friends and their parents, and especially her teachers and the principal… They have all embraced us like I never in my life could have imagined. Of course, I never imagined my life would take this insane turn, but that, at the moment, is entirely beside the point. Okay, maybe not entirely. To tell the truth, it was the catalyst. The result, however, is nothing short of utterly heartfelt and wonderful.
This school my daughter attends (attendED, by the time you are reading this), it has been amazing in light of such a horrible tragedy. They have embraced my daughter like she is the precious commodity she absolutely is. They have done everything in their power—and then some—to help her deal with a horrible, horrible life event that should happen to no one, let alone a ten-year-old younger sibling. They made her feel special. They made her feel accepted. They made her feel comfortable. And loved. And… I could go on and on.
Apparently, so could she.
Tonight, for the first time since the day it happened, she broke down, cried, bawled, sobbed. She isn’t ready to leave elementary school. She isn’t ready to leave her teachers. She isn’t ready to leave her friends. Her safe place. Her security blanket. The place she shared with her brother, until he was gone.
She isn’t ready to leave the memories of her brother behind. Graduating, moving on, it feels like leaving him behind. Leaving behind those who were most effective in helping her deal with the tragedy in her life.
And as I sat and cried with her and tried to console her, the best I could do was say, “If I could stop time, I would. If I could change past events, I would. For you, I would. But I can’t. All we can do is live. We need to keep living our lives.”
We both cried some more, and I tried desperately to come up with something, anything that would make my baby feel even a smidgen better.
So I suggested writing a letter. Because I’m a writer and there is nothing more therapeutic than… writing. Much to my surprise, she liked the idea.
This is the letter she wrote to her teachers, who have been with her for the past two years:
Dear Mrs. Downs and Mrs. Rinehart,
Thank you for being my teachers this year and last year. I don’t want to graduate because graduating is for people who want to graduate.
I wish you guys could be my teachers until I go to college, then maybe be some of my professors in college.
But sadly, we all have to leave. I’m writing this letter because I want you to know I don’t want to leave. Because, like I just said some time ago, on a day that my mom laughed at, you don’t get everything you want in this world, Sunshine. I learned that the hard way.
So I just wanted to say that I don’t want to leave fourth and fifth grade and I hope we can stay in touch.
Sincerely, a fifth grade girl whose name starts with an R and ends with an N.
Need a tissue? Yeah, me too.
Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and mother. Her daughter usually makes her laugh, almost uncontrollably. Today, however, she made her cry. Mostly because she is so F’ing proud.
When you’re done with the tissues, check out Tami’s website, www.tamilund.com.