On her way to ... that place
This morning, I watched my baby girl walk out the door and down the sidewalk, headed to her first day of high school. I’ve been a ball of nerves since the wee hours of the morning in anticipation for that 30-second sequence of events: I went to bed, got back up, watched an episode each of Frasier and The Golden Girls, went back to bed, tossed a little bit, woke up again at 5, peeked into her room, told my silly self to go back to sleep, and finally gave up the ghost and got up around 6. I was too high strung for anything besides lying there wondering how this day could’ve come up so quickly

She looked beautiful. And tall. Beautiful and tall. I retwisted her dreadlocks for her last night and then pulled them into a pretty bun perched atop her head before she put on her shoes and threw her bag over her shoulder. I got the lump—you know that golf-ball sized obstruction that interrupts mothers’ ability to swallow properly on milestone days like this—and, I guess, that moony expression that gives me away every single time.

She perched a hand on her little pre-womanly hip and tilted to the side. “Mommy, are you gonna cry?” she teased.

I shook my head like the thought was ridiculous, knowing full well if I would’ve even attempted to open my mouth and respond I would’ve been clinging to the child’s ankles and blubbering like a pimp at the pearly gates.

I still remember exactly what she looked like on her first day of kindergarten, down to the magenta and cobalt Hello Kitty lunchbox and the thick-soled Mary Janes. I was wound up on that day too, but today I was in rare form, even for me. Seriously: this is the last leg of the secondary school journey before I have to loosen my grip and let her go out into the world which, in Janelle Speak, means college (because there’s really no other option in my household). Clearly, I will be milking the next four years for all they’re worth because they’re all I have left.   

We’ve taken road trips, danced in the pouring rain, foot raced each other down a city block, but there are a few things we haven’t done yet that I want to do with her before she leaves.

Take a serious vacation. Most single parent households struggle with the barely-making-it syndrome, and mine is no different. I want once to hop on a plane and give her the full experience of Italy or Egypt or Suriname. Guess I better get to saving.

Go swimming together. We’re already walking statistics, but she’s also among the 70 percent of black kids in this country who don’t know how to swim. I don’t know what my excuse is. My mom took me to lessons when I was a tike but I was too worried about being a social butterfly to learn anybody’s butterfly stroke. Before she leaves, I want Girl Child and I both to learn how to swim. We might not be Cullen Jones’ protégés but at least we get from one point of the pool to the next and tread the deep end without freaking out that we can’t touch the bottom.

Plant a memorial garden at our house. But first, I gotta buy a house. Baby steps, baby steps. When I do, I want her to have something to watch grow and thrive (hopefully—green thumb don’t fail me now) just like she’s grown and thrived. I want her to experience going from apartment living to living in a house and have something live and tangible to mark the transition with.

She’s always going to be my baby, but I feel like I owe her this much before she leaves me. It’s too much to think about. Some women can’t wait until their kids leave the house but I’m clinging onto every moment like it’s going to be over in four years. Le sigh.

Is there something special you want to do with or for your kids that you haven’t done yet?