The first time I took Peaches to the day care she loves, she was six months old and could barely sit up unassisted. As I left her there on a floor mat, wobbling between two cooing grandma types, I couldn’t even make it to my car before I burst into embarrassing sobs. The women at the front desk definitely cringed a little. Six months is way too young to leave a baby, I thought, hiding my eyes behind massive sunglasses, and for more than a little while I resented having to work.
But as Peaches grew, she learned things. She did crafts. She made friends. In recent months, when I arrived each afternoon to pick her up, she would say, “No!” and run to the farthest corner of the room. “I’m really not beating her,” I would assure the teachers. “She has a pretty decent home life, I promise.” But I was always a little proud to see that she loved “school” so much, and that I hadn’t seemed to damage her by working full-time — that maybe, just a little bit, her life had even been enriched somehow.
These last few weeks, she started running into my arms as soon as I walked in, but she still didn’t want to leave. She wanted to show me things. She took me by the hand and led me around to the animal toys and the new climber. And then, just before I dragged her out of the room, Peaches would always wave and shout, “‘Bye, friends!”
Today I dropped her off at that school for the last time. Peaches won’t remember the two years she spent there, but I will. The way the teachers cared for her, how it was always bittersweet each time she moved up to the next classroom, the things she told me once she learned how to talk. She chattered excitedly about the “baby chickies” that had just hatched in the incubator. She got stamps in music class that she never wanted to wash off. She sang songs I didn’t recognize.
She could say her best friend’s name even before she could say her own. From the time they met at six months old, I listened to it evolve from “Dahm-ah” to “Dahm-agee” to “Dominic.” She talked about him all the time. They played and they fought. Before she learned how to crawl, he was important to her, and she will not remember him.
The realtor came over today to take photographs of our house and to pick up our signed agreement papers. It seems impossible, but Peaches will not remember her first home, either.
This afternoon, when I came to pick her up, she raced to see me. They were having a Mother’s Day Tea, so Grandma came too; Peaches brought us cookies and lemonade and then sat with her friends at the tiny table with the tiny chairs. She told everyone, “I’m go to a new house in Cali-fona” while I gathered up all her things: her naptime blanket, a stash of diapers, her personal lotions and creams and sunscreens. We stayed for such an unusually long while that, for the first time in history, she was ready to leave before I was.
“‘Bye, friends!” she said as we left.
She will make new ones — hopefully, so will I. We walked past the infant room where I’d propped her up two years ago, and I thought I might cry this time, too. But we buckled in, pulled away, and talked about baby chickies the whole way home.