Years pass. Our lives settle into simplicity. We read. We play. We eat. We sleep. I grow my garden. We watch leaves fall and snow pile and melt again in the spring rain. We celebrate birthdays. Dante visits at night, after Marigold sleeps. I’m happy: for years on end, I am peaceful and happy.
And when I turn around, it’s another birthday, and the next day, Marigold will be going to school.
I throw her a big party, and her Uncle Frank comes dressed like a Futuristic Cowboy Crime-Fighter with running shoes.
“This is the biggest cake I’ve ever had,” Marigold tells Joe MacDuff.
“But is it the best?” he asks.
“Yuppers,” she replies.
“Mom! Great cake!” she calls to me.
I’m worried about Hetal Anjali. Her mom, Jin, passed on not too long ago, and I’m not sure how Hetal is holding up. She’s never been the most stable. She and her mom weren’t that close, but I’ve heard that sometimes makes it harder to lose a parent.
But Hetal seems to be hanging in there OK. We share some small talk, and she’s one of the last to leave. It was a great party.
“You ready for your first day of school tomorrow, Bunny?” I ask Marigold.
“Can I take Riley?” Marigold asks.
“The teacher said big toys should stay home, unless they’re for a special show and tell. You can take Lamber in your backpack, and Riley will stay here with me. We’ll bake cookies to welcome you when you come home.”
Marigold sits on the floor and snuggles Riley.
“It’s OK, Ri,” she says. “You’ll be so busy having fun with Mom you won’t even notice I’m gone. And don’t worry about me. Mom, do I have to go to school?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “I think so. At least give it a try. We can talk about it as we go along, and if it absolutely doesn’t work for you, we’ll find an alternative. But I really think you’ll like it. You’ll meet friends your age. And you’ll get to go on field trips and learn things!”
“I can learn things at home,” she says. “But I’ll give it a try. Do you think I’ll like my teacher?”
“I do! And even better, I think your teacher will like you!”
I tuck her in, and she falls asleep while I read to her.
I am amazed at how she’s grown.
It’s strange to think back that there was ever a time when she wasn’t with me. I think about how my life felt ungrounded and rootless before she came. I was a pinball ricocheting off random meaningless events, and nothing connected, nothing fit.
Now, everything fits.
Everything has a purpose now, a meaning, and that meaning is Marigold, my daughter.