Becoming a Firefly

Barbara Matousek

By: Barbara Matousek

The tears surprised me. Mine. Not his. It didn’t go at all the way I had expected it to when I had envisioned it the night before. I had expected tears and anxiety, perhaps a little back-and-forth-please-don’t-leave-me-but-I-LOVE-you at the door. But instead Sam posed for a picture near the front steps, his arms big and wide in his new red and white striped shirt, his smile genuine. And when we entered through the front door rather than the side door that we’d used during the open house the day before, his new big boy shoes slapped the tile floor as he started to race down the hallway to Mrs. Heather’s class. He found his classroom and only when we discovered the door was closed did he slow down.

During early morning, before classes start, the younger and older kids in the pre-school program play together. The day before we had learned that they alternate classrooms, but we had never gone into Miss Mary’s room, never met Miss Mary. I didn’t know who she was or what she looked like and I hadn’t discussed peanuts or epi-pens with her. She hadn’t been there the day before when Sammy nervously sat down to color his firefly and sprinkle glitter on its hind end. She hadn’t asked my son if he wanted to be called Sam or Sammy or Samuel. She hadn’t showed him his cubby with the blue sticker that had his name on it or his coat hook with his name written on a picture of a spiral notebook. We didn’t know Miss Mary. We didn’t know Miss Mary’s classroom.

Sam held my hand and followed me as I looked through the halls and the classrooms trying to discern which woman was Miss Mary. So many parents and so many first-time students. A sign on the wall between classrooms reminded parents to Please Sign In, and although nobody had told me about this the day before, I skimmed the list for Sam’s name, wrote the time and signed my initials. Had I done it right? Is this all I need to do? Where do I leave him? Who is responsible for him now?

Just as MY anxiety was reaching its peak a familiar voice laughed, and I looked down to see Jamie, the woman who cares for both of my children every day while I work, squatting by Sam giving him a big hug.

“Aren’t you so excited for your first day of school?” she said, and Sam let go of my hand and beamed at her.

After I had Sammy deposited in Miss Mary’s classroom (but not before spying three boxes of cereal and milk on a table and wondering how they controlled who ate what), after I hugged him and kissed him and watched him walk off to play puzzles, after I walked down the stairs and out to the parking lot, after I got in my car and turned the key to start the ignition, after all that…I exhaled and tears unexpectedly filled my eyes. As I drove to work in silence I thought about the moment when Jamie had lowered herself next to him in the hallway and how I will forever remember the look of joy and security on my child’s face when he saw her. I thought about how truly lucky our little family is, how this incredible woman who has made our family possible had once again come in at just the right moment and helped us during transition.

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