Sunday, August 16, 2009

Big Steps and Big Strokes

As time inevitably zooms along, yet another marker of that has come to pass: Semeli finished preschool at Mama Pete's where she has been for the last two years. She and Lorelei will attend the same school next year - Lorelei in third grade and Semeli in Pre-K.

Semeli's leaving Mama Pete's is significant, because it means our family leaving it. We spent three years there total (Lorelei was there for a year), and I've dreaded parting. We were very happy with the education the girls received: the teachers were experienced, wonderful, loving; the families were always friendly; and Mama Pete, well, she's nearly indescribable. Sure, I can give a description, but it won't begin to do her justice. She's owned the school for 65 years, just celebrating her 94th (I think) birthday. She's hands-on, taking part in running the school with love and discipline and respect. I could go on and on, and, in fact, I included an entire chapter about the school in my book.

The point is, the time came to go, and I was so sad. The girls, of course, took it in stride, but they did mention they will miss their teachers. I sensed they knew it was a big deal leaving this place.

I helped the girls put their handprints on T-shirts, and we gave them to all the teachers and Mame Pete as a gift. They loved them - or at least acted like they did. They even wore them at Show-Off Day.

This is the day all the kids show us what they learned in six weeks of swimming lessons at Mama Pete's. Yep, there's even swimming lessons at this magical place! This was Semeli's second year, and she totally took off and - pardon the pun - dived right in. At Show-Off Day, there are usually four groups, starting with the youngest kids and moving up to the older ones. Semeli was in group three, though I think she should have been in group four but wasn't because there were six kids in it, and that is the max.

She was the last one in the group to "show off," and when it was her turn, instead of swimming from one side of the pool to the other, she swam all the way to the deep end, taking a big breath in the middle, and then turned around and swam back to the shallow end where the swimming instructors were.

It was awesome! I was so damn proud.

After the event, it was obvious Semeli was proud of herself, too. We went out to dinner to celebrate, and then the next day was her last day and the big swimming party. Thus ended our life at Mama Pete's: bittersweet, wondrous, and unforgettable.

1 comment:

  1. I wish our leaving our first babysitter, Rose, had been so eventful. Actually, I suppose it was, but it was pure bitter, no sweet.

    Rose practically raised Nia Lynn, my first born, from the time she was 8mos old. Rose was the only sitter she ever had. Leaving Nia at Rose's house was like leaving her with her own grandmother, but better - Nia got all the love, attention, instruction, without the grandmotherly bias.

    When Lola and Kai William came, of course, Rose raised them, too. But Kai William was still a small boy, a baby, when we unexpectedly had to leave Rose.

    Rose was in her 60's and had been asthmatic nearly all her life. She managed it well, though she did look older than her years. (I blamed this on the generations of children she helped to raise). She'd owned her in-home babycare for decades. Even my youngest brother, who was at this time in high school, got his start with Rose.

    Her home was beyond clean, which became a source of fascination for me. How could Rose, with 12-14 kids in and out of her home daily, manage to keep every area of it sparkling? I remember using her bathroom regularly just to see if I could catch it not smelling fresh, with little boy pee-pee on the toilet seat, or hand towels out of place. In all those years, I never did. She was my hero.

    Every hero, though, has her kriptonite. For Rose it was the asthma. I have said she managed it well, and she did. But at times, her schedule with the kids hindered her seeing a doctor when she first felt the need. If she could see her doctor at the first signs of a cold or labored breathing, everything was fine and we parents never even knew there had been a problem. But before Kia William could complete his training at Rose's, she had a serious asmatic episode. Her husband called all of the parents in the middle of the day asking us to come collect the chilren. Rose entered the hospital and closed her business that very day.

    Of course, I was very upset because of Rose's hospitalization and continued poor health. But truth be told, I cried mostly at the fact that my son would not be raised by her and at my own fear of having to, for the first time EVER (Rose, of course was recommended to me by my mother)find reliable, affordable, trustworthy childcare.

    I took to my bed for three days in my grief.

    Eventually, I found what I needed - what I could live with, rather, for what I needed was Rose.

    Years later, Rose died. She just never could really get well from the initial horrible incident with her breathing. Her services were more like a family reunion than a funeral. "Rosie's Kids" filled the church and the courtyard. Parents shared stories about hoe Rose taught them to raise their children. It was sad and beautiful.

    Rose Miller, Mama Pete. Here's to you.