I am a sucker.
I am a sucker for soppy Hallmark and Kodak commercials, violins playing, "Sunrise, Sunset," tiny handprints on laminated sheets of paper alongside poems that begin something like "I know right now my hands are small/and it drives you crazy when you see handprints on the wall/but one day soon I'll be big and tall/and you'll wish you'd driven me to the mall/when I asked nicely/when I was five."
Okay, that's not the poem, I can't find it right now. But you know the kid of poem – the kind written by emotional SWAT team writers who aim right for the vulnerable mushy spots on people like me, and rarely miss, no matter how obvious they are about it.
Julia's kindergarten class had their annual "Mother's Day Tea" earlier this month. I'd been to Alex's two years prior, so I knew what to expect. I brought my camera, but didn't bother with tissues, because I thought, knowing the drill, that I'd be prepared, emotionally.
We arrived, we moms, at the school and waited to be brought into the room and escorted to our designated tables by our bright-faced kindergarten offspring. Julia was SO happy and excited. She led me to my seat and I sat down and there they were, on the table in front of me. The dangerous things. The little photo of her glued to a paper tulip she'd colored. The handprints and poems. I didn't read the poems. I knew what they were designed to do to me.
Instead, I started looking around the room while the other moms entered…and then, looking at nothing in particular at all, my eyes got prickley and damp and I could feel that tightness in my throat and jaw that warns that the floodwaters are rising and I'd better do something NOW or there'd be some rivers overflowing down my face.
What the heck??
I'm a veteran! I shouldn't be falling apart YET! The class hasn't even started. And yet, I'm in danger of becoming an embarrassing, sobbing wreck.
I shot little glances around the room, just to see if anyone else was blinking rapidly, or clenching their teeth. Of course, I could only see a couple other moms from my position in the room. To see everyone, I'd have to turn around and look behind me, and that would be too obvious and would draw attention to me and my predicament. I stopped looking and bit down on my tongue, hoping the pain of that would distract me from the other pain I was experiencing.
I managed to make it through the tea without embarrassing myself or Julia. And, of course, the whole thing was fun and adorable, and at the end we were given our mother's day mugs – those plastic mugs that you can insert a drawing or photo or something on paper inside the plastic. Alex's mug for me had lots of sea creatures swimming around on it. Julia's was lots of hearts and "I love you" over and over. Gulp. And then we had coffee or tea and assorted goodies to eat, and that was that.
The month of May isn't done with me yet, however. Julia's got a birthday coming. Soon. And that would be fine, except. She's turning 6. She won't be 5 any more.
And up until this morning, that didn't bother me. At least, not much. I've been busy with the busy work. The planning of the party, the planning of the cake, the sending of invitations, the praying for good weather so the kids can play OUTSIDE….all that detail stuff. The practical stuff. Dates and times and lists and so forth. Pen to paper stuff.
This morning I came downstairs to iron a shirt for Bill and get the coffee going. And as I came into the living room, on my way to the kitchen, I glanced over at the loveseat and saw, partially buried beneath some old phone books that Bill left there the other day for I don't know what reason…the hind end of Pinky.
Pinky the elephant. You can see Pinky in this old picture of the kittens (back when they were still kittens). As you can see, Pinky is pretty flat. She's very floppy, too – a result of a little girl's lifetime of hugs and snuggles and tears and drool. And worse, but I won't go there.
Pinky has been Julia's since before Julia was born. I don't even remember who gave her to us (sorry, whoever you are, and thanks again!) but she has been THE favorite toy for all these years. The "I-can't-go-to-sleep-without-her!" toy in Julia's life. The cause of grumbling and muttering and frantic searching at bedtime because who knows where Pinky has ended up over the course of the day. Bedtime has been Julia, with Pinky under one arm, tucked in under blankets. For ever.
And so this morning – the second morning this week – I found Pinky NOT in Julia's room. She doesn't need Pinky in order to go to sleep any more. Not every night, anyway. She's a big girl. She's lost a tooth, after all.
And I've been fine, really, with these milestones. Yay! First tooth! Yay! Riding her bike with no training wheels! Yay! Sleeping through the night (most of the time)! Yay! Writing her name! On and on.
But seeing Pinky on the couch this morning…I hear the door slamming shut on this year of Julia being five. And I find that my levees have broken.
I'll sandbag them. I'll rebuild.
After all, this is a good thing, right? She's going to be six! My baby is growing up! She's a big girl!
My baby is growing up.