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tears, family, and kindergarten


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I couldn't understand why my mother cried as she tightly braided my hair, or why she insisted that both her and my dad ride in the car to school with me. My dad seemed to be calming her down, whispering again and again, "She'll be fine, shhhh," and then he would gently squeeze her shoulder, wipe away one small tear, and tell her that he loved her.

I sat bewildered in the back seat, not that my 5-year old self knew that word, but it was the feeling. At first I only felt confused and I tried to ask my mom what was wrong. Something in me seemed to believe that I shouldn't say anything. So I sat quietly in the backseat as my dad drove me, and my sobbing mother, to school. I few times when my dad went through his ritual I would add, "I love you too mommy." But she only cried harder, so after a few times, I stopped.

It was a painful car ride for me. Most kindergarteners can't sit still and quiet for very long, but nobody would talk to me, and even though this was some sort of family trip, my giant golden retriever, by best friend, was at home. The mystery or my mother's pain was my top priority right now. It somehow crept up the list, becoming even more important than my first day of kindergarten. Suddenly I heard a new phrase from mommy.

"It's like deja  vu. The same braided her, the eager toothless smile, the yellow bus..."

My mind flashed to an earlier memory, only four months ago. I had walked into my mom's room to see her gazing sadly at a picture, tears streamed slowly down her face, but she also wore a slight smile. It was a picture that I couldn't fully understand, but I felt the sentiment in the air, and it tasted strangely like love. I knew I loved my parents and my dog so I could understand the emotion, but I didn't understand why love could make you cry.

I sneaked behind mommy to see the picture she held in her slim hands. I caught a brief glimpse or a young girl with a huge smile, braids, and a fluffy, yet empty backpack. I couldn't study her face or her clothes because mommy pulled the picture away quickly.

"What are you doing?" she snapped at me.

My smile faded gently into fear and she sighed. Please, go clean your room, honey; it has been quite messy for a few days.

I nodded and walked away. When I finished putting my toys away I gently asked my mother who was in the picture.

"An old friend of your father's" she replied.

I don't quite know why, but I never asked again.



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