Every other Monday I take my grandniece, Shaelea, to Kindergarten. Today was one of those days. We leave Noni and Papa’s (my folks, her great grandparents) by 7:30 a.m. and I have her at school by first bell. This morning my phone rang at 7:00 and on the other end was a very sad voice. “Aunt Berni, can you come pick me now? I forgot my lunch box at home.” Now, home for her was 20 miles away but in the same town as school. I told her I was ready and would be there shortly. Before I got out the door, she called again to tell me (with a smile in her voice) that she was wearing the penguin pajamas she got for her birthday a month ago. If she was still in her pajamas, I took it as a clue that I didn’t need to rush.
I got to the house and she was in possession of the house key which would open the door to the lunch treasure. And we were off. She was a bit quiet. She didn’t even create a note for her teacher, as she usually does. I’m thinking the quiet was fatigue and anxiety about getting everything accomplished and in the classroom on time.
Once we got to the house, she unlocked the front door, got the princess lunch bag from the refrigerator and asked me to put it in her backpack. Life is so much better when you know you have food you will want to eat. We were in the car and ready for school, with 20 minutes to spare. I thought my day in the office might begin earlier than a usual “Shaelea” Monday.
We slowly drove to school. (May have been the first time I drove below the 20 MPH school zone limit.) As we parked in front of the school, I asked if she wanted to go in or wait in the car. She wanted to go in AND wanted me to go in and wait with her. (Good-bye extra office time.) How can you say “No” to this dear princess? (She is modeling her Princess Tiana dress Christmas Eve when she received it.)
We stood in the entryway with other kids, cold but bundled for the weather. The only time she was embarrassed of me was when I talked with another little boy. I know, I know, all too soon I will be yet another adult that embarrasses her. As for today, she wanted me at her side. When the bell rang, I gave her a big bear hug and said, “I won’t embarrass you by kissing you.” She turned away, took a step back towards me and puckered up.
Fifteen minutes I can never have back. I hope this memory communicated love, appreciation, “I’ll be at your side,” and “You mean the world to me.” I know that’s how I felt.