You may have noticed, I handle childhood milestones with a smorgas -board of emotions. They are equally thrilling and traumatizing for me, less so the latter now that I have faced the idea of missing out on them altogether – that would, after all, be much worse. But I had not learned that lesson yet when John started kindergarten, and I viewed the entrance to his school building with simultaneous fear, gratitude, suspicion, and adventure. But consider this beautiful woman: She is my dad’s sister, and for all three of John’s first years of school, she has been the guardian of that entrance. She asks for the job. Standing at the door to greet every single child who enters it every morning of their lives.
She is like the mailman of Childhood: Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow. I’ve seen her stand in the rain with the giant colored umbrella she is holding in this picture. She wears mittens in the winter I can only hope are made from synthetic polar bear. (Missouri winters – blechk). She is the first kindness to touch their little souls as they enter the uncertain day before them, and it does wonders in easing my angst. There are many kindnesses on the inside too – the calling of teacher is undoubtedly the highest in our civilization – all the more so because it is the least financially compensated for its level of difficulty. But as I watch all of the other children, not related by blood, who stream past her each day, greeted by her high-five that in my mind translates through them as a benediction, I wonder if they can possibly know the gift of it. She loves them. And I love her for it.