Now THAT’S my girl. What a relief to have today behind us. We’ve been anticipating it for so long, watching Thora’s courage wax and wan as frequently as the weather changes here in Gissy. This morning I was pessimistic as I watched Thora’s nerves begin to get the better of her. Between 7 am, when we woke the kids up, and 8:30 when we were clustered around the main office’s front desk with several other families, purchasing the compulsory wide-brimmed hat that the kids must wear during recess (there’s a hole in the ozone layer right above New Zealand!), Thora went from blissfully distracted and happily carefree to completely consumed by her fear of the day in front of her.
By the time we were pulling up to her school after dropping off her brother, she couldn’t utter anything besides, “I’m nervous!” in varying tones and accompanied by death grips on our hands. I’m not exaggerating. She could say nothing else. I had been joking with her about Maria from The Sound of Music and having her imagine that I would sing and skip into her school, swinging my purse, and spontaneously jumping onto desks or splashing the water in the drinking fountains, all while singing at the top of my lungs, “I have confidence in sunshine! I have confidence in rain!” That got her laughing a little bit, until we walked into her classroom. Her expression became grimace, and my heart broke as I imagined that her fear of being left there to handle the day alone, no crutch, was actually causing her physical discomfort. Uggh. That was not a fun moment.
Her teacher was showing us around, where to take off your shoes (of course!), where to stow your wide-brimmed hat, what you might do for the few minutes before the bell rang. The one brief moment of hope I had is when her teacher at one point addressed her instead of us, and she peered out from behind her dad’s leg and quickly erased the look of discomfort and replaced it with a smile. Not quite a beaming smile, but a polite smile nonetheless. And I could see that she was brave and strong. And it was that sight that allowed me to wave cheerfully good bye (a put on) and walk away.
The morning was quiet. I have to admit: I was lonely when I got home. I missed my family. I missed my kids and among their many great qualities, I missed the sense of purpose they give me. I missed having no one to mother. I ate every word I’d said about being all too ready for them to be in school. What had I been thinking?!? And then I went to the city pool and swam laps for over a half hour, something I hadn’t done since Thora was born. And I came home and had tea and before I knew it, it was time to pick up Auric. And then I spent over an hour cleaning our backyard pool, punishment for betraying my first born, for every bad thing I’d ever said about being a mom, for ever wishing time to myself. And then, before I knew it, it was time to walk to pick her up.
Auric and I milled about until the bell rang and then we worked our way into the area outside her room and peeked in. Through the hanging artwork, across two classrooms, I made out Thora’s class, sitting on the floor around their teacher, who was strumming a guitar. A guitar! Then he dismissed them and they all got up and gathered up their backpacks. Auric and I made our way over there. She spotted me and for a brief moment I feared we’d have a repeat of her first day of kindergarten, when she held back her tears until she saw me and then in my arms begged me not to make her go back. This couldn’t have been more different. She was happy. There were no tears. We wandered out to the playground and she talked about having played with friends. Friends! I asked her the friends’ names and she couldn’t remember, but still!
Later, I asked her if her teacher had introduced her at the beginning of the day and she said yes. I asked her if all the kids said, “Hi, Thora!” And she said yes, with a smile, as if it were a fond memory instead of moment of panic. And then she said that a couple time the kids competed over who could sit next to her and at one point one boy wanted to sit next to her and lost out to a bossy kid and then cried and the bossy kid got in trouble. I’m not sure if that’s true in part or at all, but I don’t really care. I asked her if she liked it and she said a cheerful, “Yes!” I knew I was taking a little bit of a risk when I asked her if she thought she should go back again tomorrow and she laughed a little when she said, “Yes,” knowing that I wasn’t really being serious, and perhaps thinking that the prospect of giving up on this new chapter would be pretty silly, given how she has kids who fight over her and a teacher who wears cargo shorts and jandals (sandals) and plays the guitar! Isn’t that just her version of Mathilda’s Miss Honey? I mean, can you get any more dreamy? Surely there are days ahead that will be hard for her, it won’t all be roses and telekinetically sticking it to your enemies. But for now Thora doesn’t have any enemies. For now, we’re filled with optimism. For this brief moment, life is about as good as it gets.