I forgot it was Madeline’s school picture day a couple of months ago. Her first school picture day. Actually, I didn’t really forget I just got the days mixed up. I’m wearing a lot of hats these days, so occasionally something slips through.
I had thought picture day was Friday but when I walked her into school on Wednesday everybody was so fancy. I went into panic mode. There was my child with her hair in a messy bun and the brightest, busiest, most non-photogenic, patterned, sparkly something you could ever imagine. As a professional photographer with a minimalist style, imagining her first school photos on my walls for the next 30+ years looking like a carnival was more than I could handle.
Her teachers who are worthy of sainthood (especially Miss Pat, who used to be my teacher when I was three and four years old) told me to take a deep breath and just run home and grab her dress and they would help me fix her hair. Luckily I work from home (pre-Covid-19) and her school was only a mile and a half away. I was such a frazzled mess that day. I was just trying to get everything perfect. I went back and forth three times because I forgot the tights and then the bow, then I lost the bow, then I dropped the tights in the driveway. We made it all work though just in time. I left there sweating, like it was just any other day of chaos as a mom, not really realizing that it was one of the last days I’d ever be leaving there. She’s my last child.
Last Saturday we were happy to learn that her photos were in so we jumped in the car and headed over to Miss Patty’s house. She had the most adorable decorations displayed throughout her yard and across the windows of her home; rainbows, bunnies, words of kindness. Madeline’s eyes lit up as we pulled in. It was like she was seeing something so reassuringly familiar, something that she has been missing so much of but is just too little to process the “why”. She just asks me why she doesn’t have friends anymore. 🙁 Heartbreaking.
I picked her photos up out of the bin on the porch, got back in the car and pulled one of out of the envelope. There she was. As happy as I’ve ever seen her. No crazy forced smile like she does when I try to take her photo (Google “Photographer Child Syndrome”, it’s real). She just looked absolutely perfect.
That memory. The chaos of that day. It bubbled up to the surface and I proceeded to start to cry in the car. Right there in Miss Patty’s beautiful horseshoe driveway. I didn’t want to pull away. I was sad for all of the little things she would miss in her first year of school. She didn’t get to make the little Easter baskets out milk cartons. She didn’t get to experience her first crazy hat, crazy hair or wear your pajamas day. She didn’t get to learn the little songs for her graduation performance. She won’t get to wear the same paper graduation cap that I did when I was four and as her brother did just a few years ago. I won’t have those photos. Those memories.
She didn’t get to participate in all of the little things that made me so excited to be a first time mom, just a few years earlier with her brother. I was looking forward to those moments for her so much, and yes..for me too. I still have the milk carton in her “pack-pack” for the surprise upcoming project they were planning.
She’s too little to know what she is missing. She doesn’t understand yet that her “best friend” Miss Stephanie..won’t be her teacher ever again. She just knows that she hasn’t seen her in a while and she would like me to send her every cat picture that she has been drawing for her every single day since she’s been home.
Next year she will go to kindergarten. She will be on the bus with her big brother and off to begin her childhood but I didn’t get to say goodbye to my baby. I grieve for that.
Idling in the car, still in Miss Patty’s driveway, I cycled through the memory of that chaotic day one more time. How ignorantly frazzled I was.
Holding this perfect little thing in my hands. Only now am I able to see just how beautiful that day ended up.