I cried when you left. You skipped as usual through the school gates; your little ponytail, like a pendulum, back and forth, back and forth, keeping the beat. Each day we say goodbye farther and farther away from the school grounds, as you gain a greater awareness to what is and what is not “cool”. It is the cause of that tickle I feel at the top of my chest before you leave. I take a quick breath in, and then once more, as I realise today that I will never see you again. I will no longer feel you cling as tight to me when I need to leave; or pull as strong at my sleeve as you bring me into your group of friends.
In a few hours time, this “you” will disappear, erased by playground folly, or a shoulder brush and sneer from another child. It may just be a conversation you overheard and pretended to understand or a kiss from a boy, but a bit of your innocence I guard desperately will die. Your shape, your being will change and it will be unfamiliar to me, one of your many new riddles that will confuse me.
When you return after a long day of hard work, shirt untucked and hair tussled, you will keep a bit more distance. You will be a new girl, older, taller, maybe a longer gait, slightly different smile, with behaviours collected from others tucked into your schoolbag. Something will be lost, traded away on the playground, something that I am able to feel but cannot see. You will be more independent, that is, of me, and I will miss you. I will grieve your loss behind my fake smile as I ask you how your day went and as you try to mimic a stranger with your response. You will look up at me, smile, and with little fingers pull your hair behind your ears. It will only be when we pass the bend in the road, when you will feel safe enough to take my hand and I will never want to let that hand go.