This is the letter I wrote to my daughter on the night before she started kindergarten this week. I am emailing it to an email account I started for her, that I send letters/music to….with the plan that I will give her access to the account when she is older…
Dear Bridget, September 2018
Tomorrow is your first day of school. I know most mothers are awash in their own salt water and saline, mentally reliving the day they brought forth magic from their swollen body…Me? I am nothing but neon about tomorrow–all abuzz, all screaming fluorescent joy. No laments from me, no lacrymosas. This is it, baby girl. The way I see it: your hand is on a doorknob that is opening into the next amazing part of you life. Turn that doorknob slowly and carefully in your doll-like hands, like you’re entering the combination to a vault of jewels….then push with all your might and, here’s the important part, don’t close your eyes when the light hits. Tomorrow (and always), remember: You must never shut your eyes to the wonder of the world.
And when I say I’m not emotional, you must know your mother is a complete and utter liar. I am emotional. In fact, I am crying as I write this–not because you’re growing up. Listen, growing up is a privilege that isn’t afforded to everyone, so I feel lucky that you are growing up and that you are kind and smart and funny while doing it. No, little girl, I am emotional because when I think about you going to school, I think about me going to school… I loved school so much and am so excited you get to finally experience it for yourself. And I am sad that I can’t share all my feelings about this with you. Those feelings come from the numerous underwater caves within me & I don’t like to let you dive there. I just can’t tell you all this yet and am unsure if I ever will be able to…but if you never figure it out from me directly, let me tell you, I am emotional tonight thinking about your big day tomorrow.
When I was a kid, I loved school. I loved school because I didn’t love home. I loved school because teachers never gave up on me like people in my home did. I loved school because there I could explore the world safely, without my skin bearing the tattoos of the dysfunctional, abusive adults around me. At school, I often asked for love in the most unloving of ways–as is often the way with children who are hurting. But, I was lucky, no one responded to my torture in kind, only kindness. School was many things–my telescope, my band-aid, my vacation. It was the electrical outlet I plugged into and out came incandescence. If I hadn’t had the compassion of some of the teachers, I don’t know where I would be…probably walking on some abandoned road away from everything good about me. I loved school because without it, I would not have escaped the lessons of my upbringing. School was my way of learning how to fit into a better world than the one I was coming from.
I hope school never HAS to be that for you–and I hope you love it because you truly love it. I hope you grow in dimensions yet undiscovered by science. I hope you mark others you meet there with your kindness…the imprint of your laugh, the color of your friendship, the epic work of your heart. I hope you find answers to all the questions I can’t answer. And, after a great day of school, I hope you can’t wait to get home and tell me all about it.
Now go. Turn that doorknob. Push. Take it all in. Inhale wonder, exhale love for the world you’re about to discover.