I wrote this essay two years ago. At the time I felt I had all the time in the world with Hannah but today, not so, as she is days away from graduation. Look to the end of the essay. You’ll read an update on the two life long friends.
Fruit Loop Necklaces
Last night I watched as my daughter’s heart cracked ever so slightly.
Allow me to backtrack. September 1997…Hannah’s first day of preschool. Trying to be the best mom I could possibly be I shopped around for the perfect preschool fit for my Hannah. After many miles of traveling to visit the variety of preschools around the area I settled on St. Andrews Preschool. I dressed Hannah in pink on that beautiful September morning …it was her favorite color. On paper Hannah was ecstatic about the thought of singing, dancing, and playing with Play-Doh for 2 ½ hours, three days a week. She could certainly talk the preschool talk but when it came time to actually walking the preschool walk Hannah froze…in the parking lot…refusing to leave the safe nest of my side…until a very tiny, and I mean very tiny little pip-squeak of a girl, with a gentle push from her mom, extended her hand to Hannah and invited her to walk through the doors of St. Andrews Preschool together. Hannah was a good head and a half taller than the little girl.
On the other side of the door stood an angel, not in a white flowing gown, but an apron with painted children’s handprints. Teacher Jodi. Teacher Jodi swooped in, understanding Hannah’s anxiety at this change in her life. Nervously I stood in the wings next to the little girl’s mom. We introduced ourselves. Her name was Debby and her daughter’s name was Mariel. We chatted as we slowly stepped toward the exit. I never lost sight of Hannah during my conversation. My last memory of that morning was teacher Jodi kneeling between my nervous Hannah and the self-assured Mariel as they picked up the yarn to begin creating Fruit Loop necklaces.
I’m sure I didn’t accomplish a lot in those 2 ½ hours of Hannah’s first day of school. I was early to pick Hannah up, confidant that she would be beyond ready to jump into my waiting arms. Instead, Hannah came into the parent pick-up foyer shoulder to head with Mariel, matching Fruit Loop necklaces adorning their necks and smiles covering their entire faces. The hug she had at that moment was not a hello hug for me but a good-bye hug for Mariel on that beautiful September morning, their first day of school together in 1997.
Hannah and Mariel created many memories in preschool. Beanie Babies. McDonalds. Tea Parties. Pumpkin Patches. Princess Dress-up. Horse riding. Dance class at Dance Works and Subway afterwards. (Hannah was amazed that Mariel would eat anything and everything from the menu…including tomatoes…when all Hannah would order was a piece of white bread and I would have to bring my own peanut butter to build her sandwich.)
At one point four year old Mariel pronounced to her family that she would marry Hannah someday, she loved her that much. Hannah and dancing was not a great fit, but she endured two years of formal dance class in order to spend more time with her best friend. As luck would have it Hannah and Mariel went to the same elementary school and spent kindergarten and first grade together as well. They grew apart as new friends came and went but the foundation they had built with Fruit Loop necklaces and Beanie Babies never crumbled.
Mariel continued to dance. It was around this time that Hannah’s adopted baby brother Sam came home from Korea. A year later her eyes were opened to the unfairness of the world’s parentless children when her brother Zak came to our family from China as a very small and fragile 7 year old. Something stirred inside Hannah’s heart and she began to talk about changing the world. Although Hannah and Mariel’s lives were going in different directions they still came together once a year when Hannah would go to watch Mariel dance in the local Nutcracker production. Hannah was always Mariel’s number one fan and Mariel knew it. Once high school rolled around, the two old friends reconnected.
Hannah and Mariel just completed their twelfth year of school together…twelve years!! Next year they will both be Juniors and it is at this point that I return to last night…to Hannah’s cracked heart. Last night Mariel danced her last dance with Dance Works. At the end of the evening she received her applause and flowers and announced to the audience that she will spend her Junior and Senior year of high school in New York City…at the Joffrey Ballet School! Hannah, of course knew of Mariel’s plans, but to hear them announced to the world made it real and concrete. After Mariel’s performance the two life long friends met in the dimmed hallway of Hockinson High School. They embraced. They cried. Debby and I stood back. And then, out of the shadows, an angel appeared…this time not in an apron with painted handprints but in a fashionable jacket fit for a dance recital. Teacher Jodi. She was at the recital to watch a friend’s daughter perform and had no idea Hannah and Mariel would be there. So there, on Hannah and Mariel’s last moments together at Hockinson High School, Teacher Jodi comforted them and held them up as she had done so long ago on their first moments of school together so many years ago. The only thing missing last night were Fruit Loop necklaces.
This summer Mariel will be on the East Coast dancing, following her passion…her dream. This summer Hannah will be in Central America, working at an orphanage, following her passion…following her dream of changing the world. Two amazing young ladies…walking away from all that is familiar and taking a giant leap toward making a significant difference in this world.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, within hours of boarding the plane for Honduras the state department closed all travel to Honduras because of an outbreak of dengue fever. Although an overseas mission trip is most definitely in her future, Hannah has spent the past two years focusing on the needs of the disadvantaged within our own country. She will continue to follow her path of service and changing the world as she attends Central Washington University, studying to be a teacher. Mariel completed her year of training at Joffrey. She spent her senior year dancing/training in San Francisco with Alonzo King Lines training program. She is now dancing at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, New York City.