The walk to school isn’t long, just two blocks. Three houses down the sidewalk to the left. Then a turn towards the house with the dog that barks through the gate and next to the oleanders with the pink and white blooms floating like fairies down to the dirt.
Her red suede boots are scuffed at the toes, and when we cross the first street, her blue backpack, the one handed down from her big brother—the one that still has his initials monogrammed in white on the front pocket–bumps over the pavement. She still lets me hold her hand.
It’s one more block before we meet the crosswalk, and the street is sardined with cars. Drivers attempt patience as kids and parents and bikes and backpacks stream across the crosswalk to the school. We make a left turn, where the street turns into sidewalk, and then a right at the metal fence. I have walked this route, twice a day, almost every school day, with my three kids, for eight years.
She is quiet during the walk; her usual chatter distilled to abbreviated answers—responses to my questions about what she thinks this day will hold.
“I wonder where you’re going to sit this year—where your desk will be?”
“How do you feel about your brothers not being on the same campus with you for the first time?”
We pass the school office and recognize one of her best friends standing near the office wall, her formerly long hair newly cut into a bob and purple sunglasses from the dentist with the plastic lens pushed out, perched jauntily onto her little nose.
Oh, those sparkling eyes and that fast-waving hand at my girl. This day is excitement for these kids. And for the parents? How do we claim the roller coaster of emotion we are feeling, from one second to the next?
Abby grins and waves back, her hand still holding fast to mine. She follows me, as I lead, heading into the main hallway between classrooms where parents–and kids in cute, new first-day-of-school outfits–are going every direction. It’s a sea of energy and anxiety, excitement and joy and fear. We find Abby’s third grade classroom through the hallway, on the other side of the school.
This girl of mine, eyes bright, stiffens next to me when she sees her classmates—as well as another best friend who is in her class again this year. Just as quickly as she took my hand as we began our walk to the school, she drops it and gets in line with her class. I stand at the pavement, my husband next to me. We stand elbow to elbow, watching our girl. Another year beginning. Each day practice in letting go.
Her head bends a bit to the right as the line begins to move. She glances back as she moves up the ramp into the new classroom, her eyes finding ours for just a moment, her lips pursed together into a tiny grin. And then there’s the back of her head, the hair I brushed from its tangles as she stood in the kitchen. Another five seconds and the red scuffed boots turn the corner into the classroom. She’s in.
I’ll keep letting go, Father. She’s yours. I know.
I’ll keep letting go, only to hold ever more tightly onto you.
You women here? You sisters who gather here, so beautifully? Whether you have children or not, whether you are married or not, you each know the discomfort of letting go–in so many ways. I am praying for you now, in your place of letting go. You are seen. You are loved. You are not forgotten.
Father, help us hold fast to your hand. Show us the new thing you are doing, right now.
How can I pray for you, His girls, this weekend?