Year End Blues

I didn't go to kindergarten. This isn't because I was a genius (though I'm not saying I'm NOT one) but because we moved from Arkansas to Pennsylvania the year I turned six. In Arkansas I was just old enough to start school but in Pennsylvania I would already be in first grade, so they decided I could handle skipping kindergarten and I went straight into first grade.

I had been to playschool in Arkansas for a couple hours a week, but Mrs. Engle was my first REAL teacher - and I was totally in love with her. She was an old gray-haired lady who made me feel totally loved and safe when I was in her class. I remember drawing endless pictures for her that she would put up on her wall and treat like treasures. She was like my mother away from home to me. I think she must have really liked me too, because my mother told me that Mrs. Engle had said, "What this world needs is more Rachels." I don't know about the validity of the statement - but it's a wonderful thing for a child to have someone she loves think that about her. And then the end of the year came, and she announced that she was retiring, and not only would I be going on to second grade with a different teacher, but I wouldn't even be able to see Mrs. Engle in the school anymore. I was devastated.

In my typical overly dramatic fashion, I sobbed all the way home on the bus. Jennifer Williams, who was also in my class, cried with me most of the way, but then came to a point when she said, "Okay, that's enough," but I couldn't stop. My heart felt broken.

When Emily started first grade this year, I was thrilled when she got a teacher who was both caring and sympathetic, and yet firm and consistent. Mrs. Parkinson was the perfect blend of firm and kind, and Emily loved her from the start. I was so glad she was having a good first grade experience, as I had. Emily has the misfortune to be A LOT like me. She feels things very intensely and doesn't seem to know what to do with her emotions sometimes, and lives inside her head a lot of the time. She does all the things I used to do as a child. So, I wasn't too surprised by her reaction over the fact that this was Mrs. Parkinson's last year. She was retiring.

She wasn't too bad at first when she heard the news. I think it was kind of abstract. The class made a video of themselves saying goodbye to their teacher, and Mrs. Parkinson told me she almost cried when Emily came on saying, "I will love you FOREVER," in a plaintive kind of voice. The last day of school finally came, and Emily was in high spirits when I picked her up. She was talking about her friends and the summer and babbling on and on like she likes to do. Then we got home, and the finality of it seemed to hit her all of a sudden. She said, almost maniacally, "Ha ha, I kind of feel like crying! Ha ha!" I looked over at her and was quiet, and she looked back at me in silence for a couple seconds, and then her lip began to tremble and I could tell she was trying to stop it. I said, "Oh, honey, come here," and held out my arms, and the floodgates opened. She cried, and cried. "Am I ever going to see her agaaaaaaiiiiin?" she wailed.

I sympathized with her and told her about Mrs. Engle and how sad I was when she retired, and she said, "I know, I know, Mom, you cried all the way home." I must have told her that story before, apparently. It didn't seem to do much good. How sad that I'm already becoming passe. I stuffed my ego aside, though, and stopped talking about myself and just held her while she cried.

I did see Mrs. Engle again. She would come back and visit the school from time to time. She would come on Halloween and always walked right next to me during the parade, which made me very happy. Emily knows that Mrs. Parkinson said she'd come back to visit, but she worries that if we move to Lancaster (which is a possibility pending Tim getting a job he applied for out there) that she'll never see her, but I think something will work out. Regardless, when Emily grows up and has a daughter of her own, she'll have her own Mrs. Engle story to share, one that her daughter will equally not care much about in the face of her own trauma. Ahh, tradition.

(These are pictures taken at the end of year first grade picnic.)

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Emily, in the purple shirt, playing leapfrog.

Daniel, of course, was right in the middle of the action. Here they're hugging over their excitement over the prospect of a water balloon fight. I was so blessed that Emily said, "I'm going to be partners with my brother!" even when other friends came up to her to see if she'd partner with them. What a good sister. (sometimes.)