She had been in the peer modeling pre-kindergarten class in our district for the previous two years and had done well. She had learned to speak through her trach, she was 100% potty trained, she followed directions and the teacher told me she was ready to move on. But I was still nervous.
The peers in the pre-k class were there because their parents had made the choice to send them. For whatever reason, they understood the concept of inclusion. And there were only eight of them. In kindergarten, there would be 24 students, and they did not all know Sarah. One huge plus was the teacher, Mrs. Anselmo. She had been TJ's teacher and we loved her. Still, this was different. This was my child with Down syndrome. My medically fragile, baby girl.
The morning that school was to start, everyone woke up early. Sarah could not wait to pull on her white ruffly socks, her big girl leather shoes, and slip into the dress I had made specially for the first day. She was so proud that the buttons down the front had numbers on them and she could read what they said. TJ was right beside her ready to start 2nd grade. He would be just down the hall if they needed him. Looking back, I wonder if he felt that pressure on his shoulders? If he did, he never let on. After a quick breakfast, they went out to wait for the bus.
Sarah had picked out a new bookbag that was so big she almost fell over carrying it. She had a matching lunch box with her favorite sandwich, peanut butter and jelly. I remember TJ being so protective, but I'm not sure I realized how important he was to her at the time. I watched as Sarah did whatever he did. When he put his bag down on the driveway, she put her bag down.
Soon the bus came and off they went. I stood paralyzed in the driveway watching the bus turn in our cul-du-sac as though it was in slow motion, my eyes filled with tears. I wanted to scream, "Come back, come back." And then I spotted Sarah, just barely tall enough to see out the window, waving and waving, so happy. It was a surreal moment for me. I did not want her on that bus. Wait, what was I thinking, YES I DID...