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Setting sweet little faces to memory

I knelt down beside Jack with his pencil box open and worksheet placed neatly on the table. With only 10 children in his preschool class, even I, who is dreadful at remembering names, am starting to set each of his classmates’ names to memory – along with connecting the dots from the drop off parent to any younger siblings tagging along.

Even though Jack is tall and lanky for his age, collectively they all seem so small yet, shrinking under backpacks like tiny turtles being ushered to the sandy shore front for the first time.

At a small school, Jack will likely be with most of these children for the next 10 years.

This morning as I knelt by Jack, I looked around at each of his classmates trying to not only memorize their names, but their sweet little faces, as well. I tried to envision what they would all look like at their first communion, first basketball game and annual Christmas concert. I wondered which kids would spend lots of time at our house for sleepovers, school projects and birthday parties. I excitedly smiled to myself imagining all the experiences they will share together.

Each of them emerging from their tiny shells on their own timeline – first peeking out and then gradually showing off their slowly discovered strengths – the jokester, the athlete, the brain.

A yellowed picture came to mind of me in this very same classroom, lined up with all the other little girls in my class dressed to the nines in our brownie uniforms and brown mary janes.

All those little faces you want to scoop right out of that picture and cup in your hand and say, don’t worry, it all turns out ok.

My mind knows these children are only on loan to me, but my heart lacks the capability to reason with. And so, to the rapidly growing list of things I get teary eyed about, let’s add – envisioning preschoolers as high school graduates.

But until then, be forewarned Jack and Jamison, dad and I have an evil plan to create the most fun house for you and your friends to hang out at, with lots of yummy food and space to run around so we can secretly keep an eye on you and make sure you and your friends are safe and taken care of.

I fully blame this week’s installment of weepy talk on one old school copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” circa 1996. It landed in our library stack last week. Jack and I spent 15 minutes perusing the children’s section. Before we left, I asked the lady behind the counter if she could direct me to the Christian section. Jack gave me all of one minute to meander down the short aisle when he was already asking, are you done yet? can we goooooo? A quick scan of any recognizable book revealed the comfort food of books, and so I added it to our tower of crinkly, children’s hard covers and then handed over my bright pink library card.

It’s actually the perfect book for moms. Each story is only 4 pages tops, so even if you’re constantly being interrupted, you can still read a couple of stories a night and remember who all the characters are. Jamison now recognizes the book when it comes out and asks me if I’m going to cry when I read it. Highly likely, buddy, I respond. Highly likely.

I may have read one too many stories last night about parents becoming empty nesters and descriptions of barren bedrooms stacked with sharpie decorated boxes.

To all of you sweet-faced preschoolers, I’m memorizing your names, your demeanors, your families. I’m so excited to watch you all grow. But promise me two things, when you grow up and move away, come back and have a beer with your dads and don’t forget about your mom who once held you in her arms as one amazing, scary, wonderful gift on loan she had no idea how to borrow and then give back.

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