I remember dropping Taylor off in Perrie Beth Weedon's class at Liberty Elementary in Sallisaw. I wasn't leaving her with a bag; I wasn't talking to the care giver about what she liked to eat or what her signal was for the restroom. The school had already collected all the contact and emergency numbers when we enrolled our little sprite, so I didn't need to call Mrs. Weedon's attention to those. Taylor, curious and independent, launched straight ahead into the classroom, finding a friend and immediately taking over. I watched my freckle-faced, red-headed daughter walk away from me, helpless -me not her, never her.
The next exchange has replayed a least a dozen times since that day. With Taylor busy playing with her new classmates, I stood in Mrs. Weedon's classroom my feet frozen to the carpet squares. Gracefully, Perrie Beth smiled at me, though I am sure inside she was quietly giggling or tentatively afraid I would burst into tears. She was the wife of the Sallisaw High School Athletic Director and as such, my friend for a few years prior to Taylor's kindergarten debut.
Unsure what to do next, I looked at my friend, my daughter's accomplished teacher and said, "How do I just walk away?"
Without missing a beat, Perrie Beth replied, "Pick up your feet, turn around, and walk out that door. She will be great.!"
I didn't burst into tears until I hit the sidewalk. I knew then it was the first of many battles for which I had prepared Taylor that she would win, and I would lose - for if we do our jobs well as parents, our kids arrive at adulthood and need us in completely different ways, solely independent, confident and courageous.
As I drove to Dallas today listening to Taylor's playlist on my phone, I thought about those words Perrie spoke. With July approaching, I feel the world closing in on me, like I can't breathe, like I am stuck and I want to be stuck, like I don't want July to come. I have to name these "things" so they will find a place in a file in my head. It took me a while to discern why the anxiety was returning now. What had happened? But it isn't what had happened, it's what is going to happen. We are going to get to that place in the calendar where Sis has been gone a whole year, where life has picked up our feet and turned us toward the door and told us to walk.
Perrie Beth messaged me via facebook a few hours later just to say hi and that she was thinking of us, but all I saw all five foot five inches of this lovely lady telling me to pick up my feet and turn around - Taylor will be great.
I wrote of labor pains when she left for college after Christmas break in the winter of 2013 - a tearing away that mimicked the anguish of giving birth. I knew her new found independence illustrated a victory for all of us, but still I knew that the four of us would never be the same again without any inkling of the nightmare that awaited.
Picking up my feet and turning around in the fall of 1999 proved to be difficult. Letting Taylor drive away time and again to drive to Norman always left us melancholy. Picking up my feet and turning toward the future without our girl.... well, I just don't know.
Perrie Beth's message just as I am putting these thoughts in order made me cry silently, internally. I cried for the innocence we all lost that night in July; I cried for the events that will never occur; I cried for the love that people so willingly send, and I cried because this verse is so true: "For lo, I am with you even unto the ends of the earth."
All I ever needed to know, I learned in Perrie Beth Weedon's kindergarten class when I was 32 years old.
I didn't want to leave her then; I don't want to leave her now - however, she was and is in really good hands.
Thank you, Perrie Beth, for still loving that red-head enough to check on her mama. You are some kind of teacher and proof that we are not alone. All my love-