She climbed into bed beside me, nuzzling her way into position. Even with my eyes closed, I could see how she looked – thumb in her mouth, her cloth tucked up in her other fingers, her blond eyelashes closed, touching, fanning out in a perfect arc. I drifted in and out of that morning slumber until I heard a little voice through the silence.
“Can we get ready to go to my new school yet?”
We hit the ground running when we landed home – a welcome, sobering start to the year after spending a month with no routine and nothing to ground us. I left to shoot a wedding, Joel settled the kids at home, and we spent the next three days cleaning, washing, cooking, settling and hosting a stream of visiting friends and family we’ve so missed. I can’t tell you how nice it felt to be home, to be surrounded by all of it, to see with fresh eyes all the things that turn hidden once you look at them for too long. We were all giddy.
I always had my mind on one thing though: Ella’s first day of kindergarten.
Which, for a little things lover like me, was loaded with things that – to me – mattered: a new outfit, the perfect school bag, exciting lunches, cute name labels, new shoes, and a stack of other ways to best celebrate this day for our girl. Mostly though, all of the song and dance was to give Ella, our shy, timid-if-she-doesn’t-know-you, very sensitive girl tools to help her thrive in an unknown environment where she knew no one. The shoes and the bag and the fuss? It’s very purpose was to say: Honey! Look at this exciting new adventure! How fun! Let’s celebrate!
An outfit change, an Anna do, and a million can we goes later, she walked through those kindy doors and her eyes shone. Not one tear. Not one clingy hand hold. Not one apprehensive side-glance. Just a huge hug, a smile that reached her crinkly eyes and a see ya mum!
Maybe it was India, maybe it wasn’t, but we have in our care a different girl. One who no longer cries if I leave, who talks confidently to people she doesn’t know and who, just this morning at drop-off said, “Mum, I think all the other parents are leaving now. See ya!” before planting a kiss on my lips and going off to play.
We grieve our babies growing up, and I get that, but what comes after? And after that? And after that? It’s beautiful, too.
We have finally taken down our Christmas tree, tucking memories into every ornament, opening up new spaces to fill corners of our rooms and shelves of our home. I set up a little work corner and cleaned out a whole heap of junk which – literally and figuratively – prepared space for a new year, new goals and exciting new schedules.
Little keepsakes of India have trickled out – a rug here, a pillowcase there, but still there remains free space to fill. And it’s at the intersection of where we have been and where we are going that we find now: the best place to begin.
Here’s to more joy, more growth, more family, more saying yes, more intentional choices, more dates, more fun, more hard work and more change. A little bit of India will always sit just beneath our skin, and we have the anklets to show for it, but onwards to more, just as life goes.
Besides, this one’s nearly two, and we’ve got a birthday to plan.
Did I mention he’s nearly two?
Send me all of the wine.
Happy Friday, friends.