You sit beside me with math work. You count by 2s, 5s, and 10s. You add ten here and there like it's no big deal. School may be over. But you like math. You like reading. You like writing. You are so big to me here. I know in a few years I will feel this was a sweet, young time. But tonight you are my big girl. Going into second grade. I taught second grade for years. I know second grade. And I always thought, oh, she's little, littler than my second graders.
And here you are. Standing where I met so many students over the years. My big girl.
First grade at the Nevada City School of the Arts was an adventure year. You learned writing. And math. And friendships. You brought a stuffed animal to school every day (thank you Ms. Coral!) The animal changed depending on the recess games with your friends. Cheetahs and Pokemon and ZhuZhu Pets. The best animals were pink. You adored all things pink.
Winter you decided pants were your thing after all, as long as they were fuzzy. Fleece or veluor. Once spring came around, the skirts returned, though every skirt needed leggings. And the leggings had to be pulled over your heels like half-socks. Something about dance. Hearts and peace-signs were on your favorite shirts.
Your very favorite shirts matched me or Ian. We had our NCSA Peace Shirts that you wanted us to wear on the same day. You asked which pajamas I had on before choosing your own. Your best clothes connected to family.
You were such a perfect big sister for Ian. You swept him into big hugs every time he came to class. You held him on your lap at stories and invited him to draw with you at your desk. You taught him dancing and wresting in the evening. You read him stories. You kissed his owies to make them better. You made him laugh like no one else could. You cuddled with him in the mornings and bedtimes. He calls you Mine, meaning My sister. He loves you absolutely.
He wanted to help make all your big reports. You researched the chinchilla and the spotted hyena. Your favorite animal was horses. Especially pink horses. A close second was puppies.
The year was not all easy-fun. We adopted our golden retriever, Bear, in the fall. And just when the puppy was excitement, our favorite old dog became ill. We had to say goodbye to River. And that hit hard. Your first real loss that you tried to sort out in story after story. Until you told the story where River and Great-Grandpa are waiting for us. And River is taking care of Great-Grandpa. And you think of them often. And River watches out for you.
Bear was a comfort until we hit a place where we couldn't keep up with his puppy-energy. We thought River would help entertain Bear. But when a family at school needed a young golden and we were overwhelmed, you were willing to let go of your puppy. I was so proud of you as we passed Bear to his new family. You grieved deep and you also knew that letting go was the biggest kind of love. I want him to have the best life, you said.
You missed them so much. And anytime you were tired, stressed, or worried, you cried for River and Bear. You drew their pictures and held them close to your heart. They were lucky to have earned your devotion. And we visit Bear. He remembers you. He will always adore you. You did right for him. Even though it wasn't easy for you.
You are meeting your challenges with brave confidence. Reading is not an easy road. But you approach each story with a positive attitude. You love math. You love figuring out numbers, counting, and logic. You puzzle through and smile wide when your answers make sense.
You had a ton of friends this year. You loved playing elaborate games where everyone had a role. Even the stuffed animals had a role. And you were wonderful at organizing everyone in the games.
You wrote stories. Stories like I love Mommy. I love Ian. I love Daddy. I love Bear. You taped them to the back and sides of your cubby.
In your lunch, you loved tuna sandwiches and kiwis. You ate lots of strawberry yogurt and lemonade. By the end of the year you were making lunch with me in the evening before school.
You are strong and resilient and creative and caring. You are compassionate and fun and musical.
You shone in your first grade show. Your favorite thing was the lion dance. And you were so sad that it was over.
You loved the ride this year. When I asked you about your favorite part of first grade, you said Having Ms. Coral for my teacher.
You grow into such a lovely, delightful girl. My light. My inspiration.
The evening, the last day of school, I tucked you into bed and you looked at me with wet eyes. It just goes too fast, you said.
I know. Believe me, I know.
I love you so.