Halloween: I Told You I Was Sick
The Huntington School District had decided to hold its registration in the fall, instead of springso Nicole found herself registering her daughter, Daisy, for kindergarten on Halloween. As she signed the form, her coat sleeve slid back and the childhood scar on the inside of her wrist revealed itself.
The neighborhood was a riot of witches, goblins, and ghosts hanging from doorways. Front yards were converted to graveyards with cardboard headstones that read "Now I'll finally have some peace and quiet," "I told you I was sick."
"I want our pumpkin to look friendly," Daisy had said. "I want people to come to our door." Not many trick-or-treaters would show up, although Nicole had strung orange lanterns over the house and put out a smiling jack-o'-lantern and would keep the porch lights burning till nine. Potter's Lane was a narrow street up a small steep hill from town, and most kids would skip the incline.
Daisy would be one of the older kindergartners next fall. Nicole and her husband, Jay, had debated about whether it was best to push her forward or hold her back. She was a September babytypical Virgo, the eternal caretaker, order-loving, neat as a pin.
"Think about it this way," Nicole's best friend, Mimi, said. "Do you want Daisy going off to college when she's only seventeen?"
"No," Nicole said. "I don't want her going off to college ever."
"You'll change your mind when she's fifteen and steals all your makeup," Mimi said. Mimi was the wife of Nicole's cousin, Ari, which made the two friends feel related. "Blood is thicker than water, but I never understood why that was a good thing," Mimi would say. They spoke on the phone every day, sometimes more. It might be just Mimi testing out a new joke, but Nicole was a bad test audience, she saidshe always laughed. Mimi was a comedy writer. Occasionally she performed stand-up, though she suffered from stage fright. She taught comedy writing at Nassau Community College; she lectured about it at elder hostels; she ghostwrote for famous comics; she took being funny seriously.
Nicole stood alone in the main corridor in her wool coat among a gaggle of other women, most of them ten years younger than she. All of these young women seemed to know each other and stood chatting in a close knot of five or six. Nicole wished Mimi were there to keep her company, crack some jokes. A few of the younger mothers rocked baby carriages back and forth, perpetual motion machines. Nicole felt lonely, like an outsider. She hoped this didn't mean that Daisy would be, too. The parentsnearly all of them mothers, with one or two fathers skulking aroundlined up and filled out the kindergarten registration forms. They listened to a woman trying to enlist them in future PTA fund-raising events. Finally they were all congratulated, then dismissed like schoolchildren themselves.
Nicole clutched her registration form as she made her way blindly down the hall. She was shocked by the desolation she felt at the prospect of leaving her daughter in public school all day. The tiled walls were painted a pale institutional blue that no sprucing-up or Halloween decorations could disguise. Daisy now went to a Montessori preschool program three mornings a week. What would it be like dropping her off at eight every morning, not getting her back till almost three in the afternoon? The hours apart seemed to stretch ahead endlessly. They had begun a long, steady process of separation from which there was no return.
A large boy came racing by, probably a fifth-grader. His hair fell over his eyes, his belly bounced as he ran. He was as tall as a grown man. Nicole felt tempted to holler at him, Pay attention! Daisy was still petite, almost Lilliputian, the lower fifth percentile in both height and weight.
Excerpted from The Laws of Gravity by Liz Rosenberg. Copyright © 2013 by Liz Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission of Amazon Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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