Not really. Not really long years. Nine ridiculously short years. Nine years that feels like days. Nine years that passed in the blink of an eye.
Your brother was in his stroller. I clutched my go-mug of coffee with one white-knuckled hand and the stroller with the other. We took pictures of you out in front of the garage with your new backpack. Well. Your dad and Papa took those pictures because I couldn’t. We started walking across the street, and you reached up and took my hand as soon as I put my coffee in its holder.
“I’m scared, Mama,” you said.
“I know,” I told you. “I’m scared too. But I think it’s going to be okay.”
You with your round cheeks and your bright eyes. Your hands were still chubby-knuckled and you wore the sweater I’d knit for you with the Irish wool mum sent back from Kilkenny. I thought about how proud she would be of you. Then I pushed that thought as far away as I could because I’d already been sobbing for weeks about your first day of Kindergarten. Of COURSE all of the other parents were crying (well, some of them, who may have been on their fifth kid, pretty much just drove by and slowed down to let the little urchins out of the car).
You were the only child I could see on that playground. I heard some of your hockey teammates call out to me, and I suppose I must have waved to them.
Your teacher came to greet us at the gate, and she knelt down and said, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay. Everyone’s a little scared on their first day.”
Then you hugged me tightly and took your teacher’s hand and you walked onto the playground. I stood for just a moment watching you, and in that moment felt so pleased. Yet letting you go was the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It will always be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.
Somewhere there is a place where all of the little pieces of mothers’ hearts go.