This week my niece Jamey, a middle school teacher in Florida, posted happy, first-day-of-school photos of my two great-nephews. The day marked milestones for both boys, as Joe headed off to middle school and Jack to first grade. Their big-day expressions reminded me of the first-day photos Harry’s dad and I used to take. And Jamey’s “flood of emotions” triggered memories of my own teary torrents. (Cue the Kleenex.)
I’ve held onto just about everything from Harry’s childhood: baby teeth, the threads of his first stitches. I even considered saving his shriveled umbilical cord stump, but agreed with his dad that was just too gross. Among the treasured keepsakes is a small yellow paper bag that his first-grade teacher gave to all the parents who brought their child to her classroom on Day One.
It was stapled at the top, and we weren’t supposed to open it until we’d left the school. I waited until Ken and I were in the car. And while he drove, I gingerly inspected the contents of our parting gift. Inside was a packet of Lipton’s Soothing Moments herbal tea, a tissue, a cotton ball and a folded note on yellow paper. It read:
Congratulations! Your child has made it to first grade! Having a child be in school for a full day can be an emotional time for a parent, too. I have made this little care package for you. After you have wiped any tears with the tissue, make yourself a nice warm cup of tea. Put your feet up and relax. Then hold the cotton ball in your hand. The softness will help you to recall the gentle spirit of your child. I will work with you this year to help your child grow and have a positive experience.
I wiped a salty mix of love and relief from my face. Our little boy was going to be happy and safe at school. I clutched that cotton ball in my hand all the way to the office. I didn’t put it back in the bag until my assistant asked if I’d cut my hand.
I thought about Harry’s lovable and capable gentle spirit all day. And on my way back to school at the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to tell him, I’m so glad you’re you.
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