The saddest thing about my vacation has been watching little Pearl get swallowed every morning by her school. Her school is a pretty, brick building in a residential neighborhood. She loves it. But there is this thing that comes over her as we approach the building; this thing that scares me. She is willful and independent and sassy and she marches herself right into the school.
She has even started using the main entrance. There is a side entrance, designated for kindergarteners. Kindergarten parents are supposed to take their little five-year-olds there promptly at 8:45 a.m. The kindergarten teachers appear and shuttle their little lines of students one at a time.
At the main entrance, children wait mainly without their parents, and the principal and morning hall duty teachers call out the grades one at a time. Formerly, even when we arrived after 8:45 but before 9:00 a.m. (which is the window during which the students are permitted to arrive without being considered tardy), Pearl and I would go over to the kindergarten entrance.
But these last few weeks, little Pearl is eager to go in through the front door. She holds her back up straight and she gets this little look of fearless excitement and self-possession. There is an emotional war inside me: I am proud and sad and excited and gratified and demoralized and astonished and the vortex of all of this is a sense of loss. The baby is gone. The toddler, too. My girl is a girl. She’s half way to puberty.