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And the door closed behind us

The memories of kindergarten linger as a school year abruptly ends.

One day they brought you to me. They hugged you and kissed you and said good-bye. I reached for your little hand, and we walked together into our classroom. And the door closed behind us.

New experiences

The days brought a world full of new experiences for you. Do you want to know a secret? It was a world unlike any I have known too, unlike any I have created with the other classes I have taught. That is the magic of a classroom. Each kindergarten world has a personality of its own, a special blend of voices, smiles, and even frowns.

At first we kind of bumbled around like random balls in a pinball machine. We traveled our paths and bumped each other from time to time. We were a bunch of individuals, a crowd of strangers, closed in together.

But that is how it always begins. A bunch of strangers who share something small. It’s found in the togetherness of chanting the same response to the teacher’s “Red Robin . . .” call. It’s in the laughing so hard we roll on the carpet when our teacher sings the wrong words to the good morning song. It’s the quiet smile across the table when another chooses the same snack. It’s the running until we are exhausted. It is the silent understanding when we all carry out the same morning arrival routine. It’s in the independence of being part of a society, a culture, that belongs only to us every day . . . when the door closes behind us.

Our special friend

More than all that it is finding a common friend. For every morning, we gather in our Savior’s lap. He talks to us in his Word, and our hearts feel warm. He walks among us as we learn about the world he created and about the life we lead. As we discover more about ourselves and our feelings. As we dare to try new things. He is there. We talk about him. We love him, and somehow in loving him, we start to love each other. Every morning he walks in with us, and the door closes behind us.

And one day it happens. Someone is absent, and the others notice. Someone compliments a classmate’s picture or sits near another to read a book. Someone falls down, and a friend cares. We don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere among the small shared experiences, somewhere in the lap of the Savior, we are transformed from a crowd of strangers to a band of friends. Friends who can’t wait to meet each other every morning as the door closes behind us.

An abrupt ending

Kindergartners and 4K students from schools around WELS: Water of Life, Las Vegas, Nev. (featured photo); Bethlehem, Germantown, Wis. (100 hearts); Sola Fide Academy, Lawrenceville, Ga. (100th day hats); and Zion, South Milwaukee, Wis. (popsicles and two playing on floor)

One Friday, you skipped out the door to your weekend. You left paintings drying on the drying rack—“You’ll get it Monday.” You left a smear of butter on the table from the cinnamon rolls we had made. You all screamed out, “We’ll be right back, kindergarten world. We’re just going home for a quick weekend.” I said, “Bye, Bub!” piled my van with the books I needed, and followed you out of the parking lot. And the door closed behind us.

It was supposed to open again to the world we love. The world where we all know who is a morning person and who needs a little space. The world where we laugh at knock-knock jokes that don’t make any sense. The world where we pray for each other. The world where we were just about to hear the greatest love story ever—the story of Jesus who died on the cross and rose again.

The door closed behind us. Just when all our hard work was starting to make us feel successful. We were enjoying the surprise of finding out we can read! We maneuvered our room like a bunch of bees, swooshing past each other in perfect harmony, silently handing the tape to the one digging for it, bringing an errant water bottle to a lunch neighbor, and checking our sandwiches for peanut butter to protect our nut-allergy friend.

But the door closed behind us. And I had no idea that “Bye, Bub” would really be our kindergarten farewell. I was ready to walk you down the path to all the things we had been preparing for. We were going to run a lemonade stand. We were going to enjoy spontaneous reading time in the shade of the playground tree. We were going to complete an Earth Day challenge and run around the property picking up trash wearing green capes. We were going to make Easter cards for people who were too sick to leave their homes. We were going to take surprises to the other teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. We were going to hunt Easter eggs and make Mother’s Day gifts. I had such big plans for you. And you were going to love them.

And then I was going to secretly size you for your graduation gown when no parents were around so that they would catch their breath when they saw you in it the first time. I was going to prepare you for your next step, your next school. On the last day I was going to proudly walk you to the front and call your names, my graduates. I was going to smile and laugh with you and not let you see how your leaving was breaking my heart that day. And I was going to whisper a prayer for you as you walked out so big and strong and the door closed behind you.

Our final destination

But before that day, there would have been a moment. Sitting together on our carpet, we would have heard the story of Mary and Martha. Martha had so many important things to do. And Mary wanted more than anything to stay close to Jesus. We would have dreamed about the things you would become—teacher, truck driver, astronaut, vet, mommy, daddy. I would have told you I was so excited about the way Jesus made you and that I love to imagine all the amazing things you will do. And then I would have leaned close to you, smiled into your eyes, and begged you from my heart, “Whatever you do, stay close to Jesus.” I would have told you that someday we will see each other in heaven. We will finally hug the Friend we love the most, the Friend who brought us together.

We do still remember our kindergarten days. We will think about those days of wonder for the next 80 years. And then we will live in heaven with Jesus forever, because the door will close behind us.

Author: Jennifer R. Otto
Volume 107, Number 6
Issue: June 2020

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