They say when your kids start school it's over. The years slip by, marked by September and June. Until September and June don't matter anymore, and you move back to a January to December life again. I have three short weeks left before our youngest goes off to school. I've been trying unsuccessfully to hold onto time. To slow it down and observe all the details of Ava before handing her off to the big wide world. For her starting school is a new beginning. She is excited and nervous. But she's ready to start. I'm not sure I'm ready to let her go.
Today I took her for a bike ride around the block. It was a rare hour of 'girl time,' while both boys were off on a bike ride with the neighbors. She rode and I walked beside her. Her little training wheels occasionally caught in the dirt, so I'd touch her shoulder to guide her back. Her blond, curly ponytail bobbed up and down as she rocked back and forth on the seat, trying to maintain momentum. As she peddled she chattered. Sometimes she sang little bits of songs. I was lost in thought. Paying attention on one level and working out a new story I'm writing on another.
Up ahead, sitting on the side of the road in the grass, were another mother and daughter. They had their backs to us. They looked to be having a rest. They turned and greeted us as we approached. Ava warned me not to talk to strangers. The mother and I exchanged knowing smiles. Just then a soft breeze came up. It touched all of us. Two mothers and two daughters. And the tails of the little girl's head scarf danced, rose in the air, and then settled back on her t-shirt. She was bald under the scarf. Cancer. Just like that.
I refuse to be desensitized by cancer. I let myself feel all the emotions that chance meeting brought about. I was angry and sad and instantaneously felt powerless. As I walked along side Ava I came back to the moment. Our moment. I looked at her with the intention of never forgetting the colour of her cream soda pink bike. I concentrated on her sweet smile and her songs. I felt her joy at being able to ride all by herself in the sunshine. My baby. My love.
Two mothers and two daughters. One praying for her daughter to go off to school in three short weeks. And the other? Now thankful hers can.