"The Kissing Hand"......... it's a story that most mama's know and probably most children. I cannot say that I remember the story all that well but perhaps if I dug through the stack of books in the "game" closet I would find it. Or maybe we passed that book along to someone else, another mama and child, somewhere along the way. I don't really remember all the details of the book but I clearly recall the concept, the idea behind the beautifully written story of a mama raccoon who sends her baby off to kindergarten. I know because we lived it for many years. We incorporated it into our daily routine as, one by one, I sent my children off to school.
My children are close in age. All four of my biological children born within 5 years. They had great fun with each other and with our neighbor children during their first, formative years. Then I began sending them to kindergarten. It happened fast, first Jamee, a year later Grant, two years later Jade and then Brock. And just like that my babies were all school agers. Each time I saw one of them off to kindergarten was horribly beautiful. I wasn't at all sure that I was ready for them to leave toddlerhood behind. Yet their was so much pride in seeing them left their chins, square their shoulders and, inspite of all their fears, step tentatively into independence .
They were, and still are, quiet in nature, each one of them. While I don't really recall alot of tears from any of them that first day of school, a couple of them hit a road block a week or two into it and decided they'd had enough, they weren't going back. They wanted to be at home with mommy where all was safely familiar. So we got creative and on my dresser sit two cherished pins, one a tiny blue bird, the other a St Louis Cardinals pin (we are Chicago Cubs fans by the way, but that didn't matter then:). Two of my children needed these pinned to their shirts every day to get them through kindergarten. They would pin them close to their hearts and when they felt sad or needed to see me, they would rub that pin and remember that soon, very soon they would come back home. Eventually the pins were forgotten and they would realize that they can get through a day without me. They didn't really need the pins.
We read "The Kissing Hand" sometime before Jamee went off to school and the idea stuck for us. The idea was that if they kissed my hand and I kissed theirs and we placed our fresh kissed hands to our hearts, we would be together in heart throughout the day. They needed this. I needed this! So began each new school day. I would pack lunches, do their hair, make sure clothes were properly adjusted and shoes tied. I would feed them a healthy breakfast, and supervise while teeth were brushed. And then? Then I would squat down before each of them place my hands to their sometimes syrupy smelling lips, while they placed their hand to my own lips and kissed. We would place our hands to our hearts, sealing us together for the day. "I love you, have a good day" and off they went. Every single morning. There was a time when I kissed four growing hands each day. The routine was sometimes rushed and eventually it was done more out of habit than need. Sometimes, on really hectic mornings, one or more of them would rush back to me, a look of sheer panic on their face, hands outstretched, "WE DIDN'T KISS HANDS." Or sometimes one of them would need just one more kissing hand. The worry was so easily removed, a quick peck on the hand, the hand to the heart and all was well once more. And then somehow, without any of us noticing, in order from oldest to youngest, they stopped needing the kissing hand. I remember the bittersweet day when I watched the bus pull away and realized I hadn't kissed any hands for awhile. My children were growing and needing me in different ways. It hurt a little but it was sign that marked maturity and independence, good things in the life of a child. They were on their way to becoming who they were meant to be.
This past week and a half I have thought of the kissing hand each morning. Not really longing to kiss the hands of my grown and nearly grown children, but that of my youngest, the one whose hand I cannot kiss. For three years I have gone to her grave and placed my kissed fingers to her picture on the headstone. I have placed kisses on the photos that hang on our walls. But now my insides writhe with needing to kiss that little hand and place it to her heart, to place my own kissed hand to my heart. I suspect that Laynee would not need the kissing hand nearly as much as I would. She was a child that loved all and feared none. She drew people in and captured them with her exuberance and joy. With her bigger than life personality, I doubt that she would have faced much apprehension. Still, we would have done kissing hands. Maybe because she needed it, maybe because I needed it or maybe just because it is a beautiful expression of the love between mother and child. We would have done "The Kissing Hand."
CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.