We left as the sun set and as her sister and brother were surely getting ready to sleep at home with their daddy. We left full and happy and tired and floaty - you know that feeling? - the one that was so much more than just that night, the one where this is the end of the year and we triumphed. She did and we did and we spent the night in a throng of kids she giggles with, 6th graders who stop to hug her and the art teacher who high-fived her and the parents of her friends who look out for her as one of her own, who have become my friends, who went through the initiation that is kindergarten along with us.
Her teacher hugged me and told me how smart she is and told me again. I love a school where her teacher hugs me, where nurturing the child encompasses nurturing the family and we all are loved.
Part of me tonight looks at the three-day weekend ahead and thinks "how did we get here already, to Memorial Day weekend and the last two weeks of school?" and part of me retorts defiantly because this was no race, no time-lapse, no blink of an eye and they've grown, first graders almost, leaner and smarter and worldly in a way they never could have been last August. We earned every minute of this year, each hurtle and accomplishment, the first mean girl and the first book read alone, the kicking and screaming beginning and the squeal-screams into the outstretched embrace of a coterie of 6-year-olds finish. It's the end of the year and we got here, and I will not gloss over that but marvel at its miracle and its ordinariness and its sunrise-sunset swiftly flew those days.
So we left and couldn't come straight home because the car, worked to its bones as it is each week with the responsibility of freighting my most precious cargo, had been singing its empty siren song all day. Just she and I, so rarely alone, she asked if she could pump the gas.
It is good to remember that all that seems mundane wasn't always.
And never mind the demure prairie skirt, because that girl, my almost-first-grader, she's stuffed with joy when she isn't waterlogged with anxiety. And she succeeded in getting the gas flowing and then she held out her hand.
The loudspeakers above played some big-band music that seemed out of place next to the acne-masked teenage attendant and the pupuseria food truck parked in the corner of the lot and the view of the sunset atop the roof of the orange home-improvement store across the six-lane street. This bothered my girl not one bit. Let's dance, she said, and dip me!
And so we danced in the median between the pumps, in the white light of the awning and the buzz-sound of the mosquito zapper and the cough of traffic headed home on the end of a day's rush hour.
To the high-hat and the saxaphone this girl who couldn't let her smile show at the beginning of the year whipped out an air guitar and crescendoed to an impressive conclusion.
-happiness does come.
And when it does (when someone asks you to dance)-
-you say yes to happiness (and waltz at the gas station).