For five weeks, every time she passes the mural featuring cheery pairs of animals embarking on Noah’s ark, she points and says, “My fool! My fool!” She is excited about her new preschool, mostly because it has a playground.
The morning of her first day, I ask if she is ready to go to school. “No. I want to go to the other playground.”
She is alternately fussy and exuberant, eating only a few bites of her scrambled egg.
Watching me pack her lunch, she carefully selects a blueberry yogurt and puts it in the new Hello Kitty insulated lunch box, purchased during a special trip to Chinatown for this very occasion.
She poses for a picture in front of the school’s yellow banner. She meets her teacher and plays with small cows, Play-doh, a spatula. She hands the only other girl in her class a Lego and calls it a “robot.”
They will be friends.
Still, when I tell her I have to leave for work, she cries. Fat salty tears bump down her perfect pink cheeks. “I wanna go to work! I wanna go to work!” she says, as she clings to my neck like it’s a buoy, like she will drown into a cold dark sea if she lets go.
I peel her off and hand her to a woman I have known exactly 35 minutes.
The girl wails as I walk past the sand pit and out the gate. I hide behind a wall. For what, 5? 10? minutes she uses a year’s worth of breath to scream her displeasure.
When she finally stops, I peek in through the gate. She is sitting on a stoop, alone, sucking on the green and pink butterfly blanket her grandmother made her, watching the kids play in the sand.