Three and a half years ago, we moved Zoe to a new school when we grew increasingly frustrated with the daycare in which she spent her first year of life. Aside from the first few days, when my confused, terrified 18-month-old cried for hours on end, we have never regretted choosing Daniel Island Academy as her home-away-from-home.
We've been incredibly happy with each of the teachers who have touched her life (Marybeth, Janelle, Andrea, Jenny, Brandy), and she's learned and grown more than I ever could have imagined in those early, bewildering days of being a working parent.
Three months ago, when we made the decision to pull Zoe out of DIA to begin our homeschooling adventure, I had only one regret: she would not be able to "graduate" preschool with the amazingly adorable friends she's made through the years (Skylar, Ellie, Rex, Wesley, Liam, Abby, Sydney, Isabel). I wouldn't be one of those parents, tearing up as their child walks down an aisle wearing an ill-fitting cap and gown.
But still...our adventure awaited, and on we went, promising to join her class for field trips and also to go back to watch their graduation ceremony.
Today was that ceremony. Zoe, Charles, and I met in the school's lobby, said hi to our favorite front desk girl (Stacie) and headed back toward the multi-purpose room.
"Zoe!" came her teacher, Jenny's, voice from behind us. "Zoe, come on! Do you want to graduate with your class?"
In her arms were an extra cap and gown. She already had Zoe's certificates printed, her gifts made. Zoe was about to graduate with her class.
Charles and I weren't expecting it. Neither was Zoe. She grew shy and overwhelmed, and I had to walk her down to the classroom where sat the familiar faces of children I've grown to love. They were busily getting ready to graduate.
When my child entered the room, the children began to chant. "Zoe! Zoe! Zoe!"
And then they hugged her. As a group. And I had to leave before I started to cry.
Zoe walked down the aisle with her friends today, wearing her very own ill-fitting cap and gown. She watched them sing songs she hadn't been present to learn, and she received two certificates. One was her diploma. The other: the "candy award" given to each child, a candy-representation of their developing personalities. One child received Red Hots for her fiery spirit, another Ouch Bubble Gum for his tendency toward epic wipe outs. Zoe's was my favorite of all (of course). She received the Dove Chocolate award, because she is and always was the peacekeeper of the classroom.
I was so very proud.
And I am so very grateful that we got to experience this with our child.
Of course, Charles's iPhone was in the Jeep, and my Droid takes terrible photos. Friends will send me pictures they took (thank you Amy and Misty!!) after they finish moving to Atlanta, but for now, I have this: the singular proof that this amazing day existed. I'll remember it forever....and so, I'm sure, will Zoe. Thank you, Jenny and Brandy. It meant so much.