We took pictures in the backyard.
We packed up in the car, Luca hugging her frog and Rohan hugging his snoring pig.
As we drove west, she asked me where the sun was hiding, and I explained that it rose in the east, so it was behind us. She asked me if the cow jumped over the sun like it jumped over the moon. I said no, because it was too hot for the cow to clear. She agreed, telling me if the cow fell on the sun it would burn, and then asked what would happen if it fell on the moon. She thought for a minute, then said, "Well, I think the moon would fall down and then we wouldn't have a moon. And I think that would be very sad."
Meanwhile, he pried open the velcro on the back of the pig and attempted to use his fingernails to pry open the battery pack. When that didn't work, he pressed each of its 4 feet and both ears to see which ones made which sounds occur.
Together, they are going to be the ultimate mad scientist.
She came with me to drop Rohan off with Laura. They love Laura. Hers was one of the first names Luca learned to say, and on Monday when we pulled to the curb in front of her home, Rohan pointed eagerly and said, "Woah-wuh! EEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" which I believe translates loosely to "Well hot damn, it's Laura's house! I love Laura!!"
Luca showed her the backpack with the Princesses on it, and Laura told her to be brave and make sure the other kids were nice.
And then, it was just we two, driving away and headed to her first day of preschool. On the way there, I asked if she was excited. "I will make lots of friends because I am smart. And nice. And funny. And pretty. And I have cool shoes!" she replied, echoing the pep talk I'd given her twice over the past day. I wished there was someone there to give me a mommy pep talk. Something like "Your baby will be ok and will make friends and learn new things and you're making the right decision." And even if I had to give myself the talk, I knew no matter what she would be ok, and I was so happy that the family and friends who have helped get her here, to 3 and to preschool, helped us put those words and thoughts and beliefs into her mind. She is a sponge, and if what she soaks up is self-confidence and a sense of herself, I am certain we've succeeded.
And then we were there, pulling into the parking lot with my heart in my throat and tears burning at my eyes. I put my brave face on and swallowed hard as I helped her from the backseat and laced her backpack through her arms. We walked, hand in hand, and I watched her and saw the nervousness in the way she bit her upper lip.
I know I can't hold that hand forever. But I am going to hold it for as long as she lets me.
When we got through the door, Luca was immediately greeted by two teachers and one 'student' teacher (a high school senior who gets credit for working in the center), and I felt the heat of her anxious little body press to my leg as she rubbed a cheek against my hip. She does that, when she's nervous or scared, as though she is trying to retreat into me and disappear. I leaned down to kiss her hair and her eyes were wide, expectant, looking for an answer in my face. Waiting for the look in my eyes to say, "This is bad and we should leave." or "This will be fun and you will be amazing and there is no reason to be scared!" I forced a smile, assured her it would be fun and asked if she wanted to follow Miss V. (student) to the wall to put her blanket and frog in a cubby for naptime. Nervously, she let my hand go and followed.
I let her go.
I signed her in for the day, spoke to the teacher for a minute, and then turned to find her again and saw her looking at me, waiting for my next move. I straightened up a notch taller and walked over to where she sat in a tiny red chair, poised to create some art, and I asked if I could take one picture. She smiled, and in the few seconds it took me to snap the shot, she drew one tiny, perfect pink circle on the page. I kissed her face, told her I love her, and walked out the door without looking back.
I sat in my car outside, heat rising behind my eyes and that damn traitor heart back in my throat. I thumbed through the pictures, and came upon that last one, and the tears came. I felt it all right then: happy and proud and wistful and excited and anxious for her. But then I saw that one perfect circle she drew, and the way she was looking at me so square in the eyes, and I knew she would be ok.
I know this without a doubt: This experience will test her and teach her and make her grow in beautiful and perhaps painful ways. There will be days she is eager to put on her pink backpack and run out to greet her friends. There will be other days, days I will wish away, when she will cry and ask to stay home and break my heart into a million guilt-ridden pieces and leave me wishing I could walk through the world 4 steps ahead of her at all times to slay all dragons and push away all hurt and lay down a path of daisies in my wake for her to tread on. I will wish that I could make the world a perfect place for her, and protect and hold her close to me at all times.
And then, in equal measure, this I also know without a doubt: I cannot hold and protect her in every moment and every experience. She will meet beauty and love hopefully more often than she meets ugliness and cruelty. But no matter what road lies ahead for her, what is within her is us. Our deep and immeasurable love for her, which seeps into her soul. We have spent 3 years able to control who was around her and the things she was exposed to, and in those years if we did our job as parents and as people, we have given her the gifts of self-confidence, understanding, compassion, joy, acceptance, humor, and self-worth. We have helped her to be the best Luca she can be and to turn her inner light on and shine it on those around her and bring them into her world of fairy dust and golden butterfly wings and laughter and joy and love.
She is magic. She is ours. We have set her free into the world, baby steps at a time, and we do so with the confidence that the world will love her because we do.