I just dropped my kids at their preschool for the last time. I didn't think that I would feel much emotion about their last day of camp; emotion had already seeped through my stoic resolve on the final day of school, which was last week. However, as I stood in the hallway this morning, realizing it was the last time I would see the cheerful birthday board, the last time I would say "go potty" to my kids before they went to their classroom, the last time I would juggle two backpacks, two lunchboxes, and a purse while I waited for their day to begin, my stomach pulled on my heart. I felt like it was the end of an era.
I remember when I walked the halls of my high school for the last time, summer smells rushing though the corridors with locker debris littering the ground. I was excited for the next step and at the same time sad for moving on. The same feelings engulfed me on my college graduation day when my roommate and I hugged goodbye and closed the door on our apartment. I felt it again when I left my first teaching job after 6 years. That time I cried, alone in my classroom, wondering where the next step would take me. Similarly, my husband and I reminisced together in our empty house, our first house, which we had loved for 7 years. We grew so much in that place.
Eras are defined by time, but really, I think, they are about place. The short time we have spent at the preschool does not compare to the growth we have experienced in the place. I saw my babies grow into kids. I watched as they learned about friendship and "doing school" and all the things that a preschool offers young children. I served as a parent in fellowship, a board member, a teacher, and a volunteer in that place. It was 2.5 years of snacks without peanuts, of "beating the line" at the exit in order to get to work on time, of juggling schedules with my hubby, and of programs full of song. It was piles of artwork that hang on my office wall, numerous treat bags filled with kiddie junk, and hundreds of smiles from the children and their parents.
When I compare the preschool to the other places that have sparked these same emotions, the time I spent there is insignificant. The place, however, will always be important. As my kids climbed the steps to their classroom this morning, I reminded them it was time to start their last day at the school. My son burst into the chorus of "I'm so excited," and I joined him. I am excited. And I'm also welling up with tears as I write. It is the end of an era, and my dueling emotions remind me of the import of this moment.