The Last Kindergarten Show

Every mother knows the moment. You’re proud and happy that your child is growing up, and yet you aren’t ready to let him go. That’s how I felt when our younger son graduated from kindergarten many years ago.

This week I found an old invitation to a May party for mothers that brought up a lot of memories. I wrote an essay after that emotion-laden party. Here it is, in honor of all mothers:

Two dozen five-year-olds march in a circle to the music, then swish in and out. They are silently absorbed in following the rhythm of the record player.

I sit on a teeny-tiny chair wringing the sopping shred of tissue in my hand and cringing away from the rest of the audience. Breathing deeply, I try to gain composure and keep the cry in my throat from escaping.

The music stops and everyone claps. I smile hugely so anyone glancing my way will see my teeth and not my tears. How could my baby learn all of those dance steps? Why hadn’t I seen this grownup side of him before? He even danced with a girl and held her hand. Where had this maturity been hidden?

The kids reassemble, sitting on a rug in a semi-circle. They begin to sing the songs they’ve been practicing. My son is keeping an eye on me through a maze of chair legs as he half-heartedly sings. I smile and he waves.

All week, he’s been telling me about the menu for what he calls “the last kindergarten show.” The kids have done the cooking. I think of how he described the recipe for peanut butter balls. “First you mix up peanut butter and some kind of funny sugar and rotten potatoes.”

“Rotten?” I’d asked.

“Yes, and you have to smash them too. And then you roll them between your hands like this.”

The room smells like a mixture of crayons, paste and paper. Not unlike the blue-crayon carnation invitation I received last week. Twenty years ago, they were using the same mimeographed pattern. How had that managed to stay the same in this turbulent world? Would it be in use twenty years from now?

My son gets up and leans casually on the piano for the last song, while the others stand facing him. The song is about snowmen. In the last line, the sun comes out and melts them. He hops off the piano bench beaming rays of sunlight on the others and they sink to the floor, melted.

I am melting, too, as I wonder if I’m ready for a new phase of life. In a few short months, he will be off to first grade, but what will I be doing? He seems very well prepared for what lies ahead. Am I?

This is the last of a long line of kindergarten shows and I greedily drink in every moment of it, regretting that there will never be another. My nose is a tattletale red, showing the emotional journey I’ve been on for the past hour.

Our family ‘way back then

The songs are over and there is much applause. The kids pass out handmade Mother’s Day cards. Mine is made of yellow construction paper. The word “love” is on one side and his name on the other. It’s very well glittered. When it becomes apparent that other mothers are getting two or even three cards, he lets me know he only made one, but he used lots of glitter.

And lots of love, I think to myself. We hold hands as we walk out under a banner of watercolor flowers, out into the brightness of a May day.

At home, the soup boils over, the phone rings, and my husband rattles off a list of errands that must be run. But for one fleeting moment, I hold in the palm of my hand a carefully printed nametag that reads, “mY Momm.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all women

who nurture and care for others.