My youngest daughter, Abigail, sat at a little table with a small group of children at preschool. She nibbled contentedly on a chocolate chip cookie and sipped Hawaiian Punch, and I thought about other preschool snack times I’ve witnessed as a parent volunteer over the last few years.
Most of the time, we were there with my oldest daughter, Megan. Abigail tagged along, perching on my hip or nursing discreetly as I sat along the classroom sidelines. For the first two years of Abigail’s life, we three girls did almost everything together. Much of our life revolved around this one preschool classroom.
Megan has since moved on to bigger things like kindergarten and lunches purchased in the school cafeteria. I’ve had to adjust now that it’s just Abigail and me.
|Waiting for Easter treats last spring.|
These days at preschool, memories of Megan’s time there come over me at odd moments and without warning. Abigail plays with the same toys Megan played with and listens to the same songs on the teacher’s record player (yes, a record player!).
There are small ghosts of my oldest daughter behind each toy bin, with each craft, in little corners of the room. Over by the science corner, I remember how Megan sat one day with a look of calm fascination as she watched the teacher call out and correct a wayward peer. In the toy area, I remember how Megan loved playing with a set of small plastic people. The candy exchange during the Halloween party this fall reminded me of a similar party the year before in Megan’s class. The Christmas party had a familiar tinge, as well. Abigail played with the same Little People ice skating play set and wooden nativity scene that captured Megan’s imagination last year.
Megan’s preschool years were a time of change, growth, and happiness for our family, and especially for me. I enrolled Megan out of desperation two winters ago when she was almost 4 and needed an outlet while I was busy caring for her newborn sister. Abigail was a welcome guest when I regularly volunteered in the classroom. I helped kids assemble gluey crafts with one hand while holding a drowsy infant in my other arm. The girls and I went together on field trips to the library, zoo, fire station, pumpkin patch, and doughnut shop. At every holiday I snapped
a picture of both girls together with the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus when they visited the classroom. This Christmas season, Megan was off at kindergarten and is missing from the preschool picture.
|Field trip to the zoo.|
Last summer when I realized kindergarten was looming on the immediate horizon and I had to come to terms with sending my oldest daughter into the wider world, I understood just how much I loved her preschool years and our time together. It was when we adjusted to life as a family of four and I came to realize how happy I was as a mom of two little girls. Preschool isn’t the same now that it’s just Abigail and me. It’s a little bit lonely with just the two of us, and a little bit more special because it’s just us.
They are right when they say you can’t go back to the way things used to be. Megan is thriving in kindergarten and I’m happy to see her growing, learning, reading, writing, and expanding her world. Life marches steadily on, always changing, never staying the same. That is a good thing. We have three and a half years before Abigail starts kindergarten. Those are years in which to make new memories. And all the while, whenever I see little ghosts in the preschool classroom, I will smile and treasure the old experiences and marvel at how far we’ve come.
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