The very first picture you colored
in school was a green turtle.
Your teacher said you colored like a five-year-old.
You were two and I framed it.
And now your cheeks aren’t so plump,
your cheekbones proclaim you more young
lady than baby, your crisp pleated jumper smart
with your school’s monogram on the collar.
We walk together to your new classroom
that first week. I watch you unpack your bag,
line your crayons nice and neat, lean over to compliment
your deskmate on the pretty beads in her hair.
She demonstrates the soft clacks, like rain,
as she shakes her head. I kiss you goodbye,
why I’m not sad.
The next week you join the big kids
in car line, vehicles circling like a many-legged
millipede as kids get out and swarm toward their teachers.
You talk through the route to your classroom, making sure you have it right.
There is nervousness in the way your mouth is set,
but your self-reliance shines as bright as your soul.
You kiss me goodbye and walk away. I breathe
a sigh of relief when you make it safely inside.
I realize what this tightness is around my chest.
It’s a new beginning but also, you walked
away. You walked away from me.
Back home, I dust off your picture of the turtle.
Candice Marley Conner is slowly wrapping her head around the fact that she now has a kindergartener. Her poetry and personal essays about being a mama can be found here, Mothers Always Write, and Mamalode. She’s represented by Lotus Lane Literary and has a YA and MG out on submission.
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