Entering a public place I am greeted by the familiar face of a former student’s parent. I see subtle signs of aging—white hairs at the temple or extra laugh lines, we hug warmly. We saw each other every day for an entire school year not long ago. Was it five years? Ten?
Then you, my former student, approach and I know that time has past without my noticing its pace. You’re so much taller. You now look down at me. Your baby teeth are gone—a new set of braces line your teeth. In place of a superhero or princess t-shirt, you’re wearing a scout uniform or letterman's jacket.
You stand by your parent and he introduces us, "This was your preschool teacher! You remember her, right?" Peering closer in with eyes I knew, you shrug your shoulders, and then slowly shake or nod your head.
I say, "We knew each other well. We used to share important things, we even used to love each other.” And then I share some things I remember...
You came to school in your mama's arms, she was your comfort and protection. Before long you came to understand preschool was a safe, loving place where you could play, relax and learn.
Or you strutted in with your visiting-from-out-of-state grandpa, carrying your backpack and proudly leading the way to the classroom.
Or you confidently entered the room, stood with legs spread in a wide stance, hands on hips, furrowed your brow and announced, "I'm Spiderman!"
Or you quietly entered the room, signed in and told me, timidly with a bewildered tone, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy."
Back then, you loved superheroes and princesses. They were heroes to you, even though your greatest heroes were found closer to home—your mom and dad, big brother, grandma, or six-year old next-door neighbor.
Your imagination took you to far-away places in airplanes, cars, and boats you made out of classroom chairs and big blocks.
Or you pretended to be someone else—a fairy or firefighter. Galloping like ponies or meowing like kitty cats, your classmates imagined along with you.
You were an artist and a playdough sculptor, a chef, an inventor, a scientist, a builder, a demolition crew, a rock climber, a tricycle racer, a singer, a dancer, a reader, a writer, a friend and a helper. You gave me invisible tea out of toy cups in the play kitchen, and we shared sushi, pizza, ice cream, and pickle sandwiches.
You had a friend Max and a dog named Bubby. You disliked tomatoes. You took a trip to Vermont. You wanted to be a paleontologist. Has any of that changed?
You knew I loved you back then. And I did. Back when you knew I loved you, we were great friends. You taught me and I taught you. We were companions and while you may have forgotten me, I will never forget you!
Cecilia Maron-Puntarelli, MA, is an early childhood doctoral student and assistant instructor at Indiana University. She researches play and early childhood curricular models and was the director of St. Mark’s Nursery School and Kindergarten, in Bloomington, Indiana, for 12 years. firstname.lastname@example.org