This is not because he is the fifth one out the door in the morning circus, but because, in that window of time as he enters the world to begin his day, he is an honest picture of happiness.
I have spent a collective week or two, at least, in my estimation, peeling preschoolers from my legs, hauling combative children to the bus, or driving away from morning drop off haunted by the screams (of my child, certainly) that permeated the hallway along with the smell of crayons and library books.
“I don’t like kindergarten,” Aaron announced convincingly after just a few days at his new school. “It takes too long to get back to you.”
And it truly does. Eight hours is nearly an eternity for me on many days as I wait for my little son, my sun, to come home. This tiny light was surely to be our last baby, and when he would start school, I would return to my job that I walked away from when Ethan came to us as a newborn, eight years ago.
One morning last week, my sure-footed little sprite slipped on his way to the bus. He fell to the wet ground, landing on his hands and knees. I had no time to even wonder if he was okay as he popped up and and skipped the rest of the way to Bus 1, smile still sparkling. The smile, though, did not keep my heart from breaking into a million pieces, nor did it keep me from worrying all day if he was cold from the wet grass. It takes so very long for him to get back to me.
When I had outpatient surgery in junior high, my mom brought me a flower bouquet. It was a yellow chrysanthemum with black pipe cleaner eyes and mouth fashioned to create a smiley face. This may have been the moment that spurned my passion for gardening; I adored that flower. Over time, the yellow loveliness began to fade to an unhealthy looking brown and, the once sweet springtime fragrance was now actually a little bit foul. The smile was indiscernible. I took my flower to the garbage.
I don’t remember if it was later that night or the next morning when I could no longer bear the feelings of guilt and sadness. I pulled the wilted, spent flower, still holding fast to it’s green floral foam amid empty tuna cans, baseball card wrappers, and apple cores, from the garbage can. It was given a place of honor on the shelf in my closet, where it was allowed to shrivel and drop petals in peace.
My friend’s daughter left for the Navy last week. This child that she held and rocked will not be home for Christmas; perhaps not until next summer. She is brave and ready, but my friend will not be able to help her up when she falls on her way to the bus anymore. There will be things…falls, disappointments, and even pain…about which my friend may never know.
I didn’t get to help my son Augustine when he fell. I was not there to see him take his first step, get on the bus for his first day of kindergarten, or play his first football game. Then, I did not even know him. Last May, already an adult, he became an official member of our family. A few short months later, he flew across the ocean to pursue his longtime dream of becoming a priest.
Though I am all for finding one’s wings, the bridge of transition is a hard one.
My first born son, Elliott, is now the same age as I was when I gave birth to him. As a preschooler, he waited at least twenty minutes alongside his little friend Ellyn as they held out for the engineer’s cab, where you could pull the chain to sound the bell, on the train at Yorktown Mall. Just as they were ready to board, two older boys stormed past our blindsided little ones and into the choice cab. It was all I could do not to burst into tears as I felt the disappointment and defeat of our four-year-olds.
We love so hard and so deeply, it is almost as if we are part of them.
Aaron was not, after all, to be our caboose. There was another little boy. There was another chance at riding in the engineer’s cab, at attending little league games, and at watching a flower unfold. There was another chance to hold on to the passage of time, to feel deeply in the moment, and to rejoice in the gift of these wings, wherever they may fly.