I sent that text to my BFFL this morning after putting Doc on the bus and seeing her kids’ first day of school pictures online. She and I were pregnant together. She was carrying her second, and I was carrying my first. She and I worked together at the time, before we both left for other ventures. My leaving put four hours of driving between our homes, but it put no distance between our hearts.
She was the first person, besides my husband, who knew that Doc was coming. On Tuesdays, the small grocery store near our work made taco salads at their deli counter. On many Tuesdays, she or I or both of us would walk over to the store, pick up $5 taco salads, and bring them back to work for lunch. They were delicious, and I miss them. I miss her more, but that is different.
On that particular Tuesday, early in September, I thanked her for walking to the store before I was able to join her because if I did not eat soon, I was sure I would throw up. She said, “Are you pregnant?” And I said, “Maybe a little.” And she said, “Me too.”
We were due less than two weeks from each other, and having her there, going through it with me, was an irreplaceable experience. Since she was two weeks ahead, every single procedure was still fresh for her when it was my turn. We saw the same OB, we went to the same hospital, and she was a constant comfort. We worried together and we experienced together.
Her baby, a boy, came a little early. My baby, Doc, came a lot late. And our little ones ended up just shy of a month apart from each other.
Today, four hours distant from each other, they both started kindergarten. So before I pulled away from my home on my way to work this morning, I sent her that text. “How did we get here?”
How did we get here?
I do not want to wax philosophical about time slipping through our fingers. At the same time, how were taco salad Tuesdays so long ago that our babies are school aged?
This morning, Doc felt a brief surge of nerves. She was all excitement until today. She wants to read so badly, and her teacher is going to help her read. But there she was at the dining room table, eating breakfast with Saint Daddy, when she said, “My belly hurts. Can I lay down?”
She went to the couch, and I sat with her. I told her she was not sick, just nervous (a thought I have to tell myself nearly once a day). “What is the scariest thing about today?” Doc was scared of riding the bus because she did not know anyone who would be on it. She wanted to know if I could ride it with her. But I could not. She understood.
I reminded her that after the bus was her classroom, and her teacher is very nice. She will learn so many things and make new friends. Not only that, but her own BFFL is in her class, so she would be seeing her as well. And then, at the end of the day, instead of boarding the bus to head back home, I would be there waiting to drive her home and listen to every story she could muster up about her first day.
That last bit, about me being the one to pick her up, changed her completely. She glowed. She did not want to finish breakfast, but she did want to put on her uniform and have me braid her hair. She was ready for pictures on the front porch with the pretty sign I ordered from Etsy and the bus stop.
At the bus stop, she asked Saint Daddy to lean down so she could ask him a question. “Will you hold my hand for a little bit?”
Then, right on time, the bus came down the hill toward where we stood, the lights began to flash, it came to a stop, and our little Doc climbed on board. I kissed Saint Daddy, told him we did really good, went immediately to our family car, and drove to work, crying the whole way there.
I thought about Doc all day. I could not believe how long a day can feel when all you can think about is how your baby could be needing you and you do not know anything about it.
I left work and drove to her school to pick her up. One of my middle of the night, I will never sleep again panics was that Doc would not be there when I went to retrieve her. But she was. I had to pull out of the line while she was retrieved (cue the near hysterics), but she was there, and she was thrilled to see me.
She had a wonderful day. She learned the Spanish word for eye, which she swore is rojo but maybe I am right that it is not. And she missed her brothers terribly. She wanted to wake them up as soon as we walked in the door.
So, dear BFFL, I do not know how we got here. I may not ever understand time. But I do know this. At the end of the day, the things I will remember about today are:
- Doc was so happy that I would pick her up at the end of the day that her nerves completely disappeared.
- Doc really needed to hold Saint Daddy’s hand just a little while longer.
- Doc’s face was pure joy when she saw me walking toward her in the school parking lot.
- Doc shrieked her little girl sounds of happiness when her brothers crawled down the hall after their nap.
Our babies are somehow school aged, but they are still our babies.
I know I have many days ahead of me of wondering if Doc needs me without my knowing it. I know I am still destined to cry over the cruelty of time. I know I will continue to lose sleep over who she is and what she does and where she will go.
But I also know that today was a good day.
Anxiety usually means fruitless worrying over the future. It is unfair to the present, but it is inescapable for those who deal with it. I told Doc this morning as we walked to her bus stop hand-in-hand that the best way to conquer her fears is to experience the thing that scares her. For her, it was that first bus ride. When I asked her about it in the car this afternoon, she said, “I thought it would be as scary as the whole world, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even as scary as my whole leg.”
I thought her first day of school would be as scary as the whole world, but it was not. It was only as scary as my whole leg.