Lucy won't be with us when we come back from Winter Break. It won't be the same playground without her. Not that anything awful or bad has happened to her. She's moving on to another school where she will complete her first grade year and whatever happens after that. As is the case with so much of our population, we don't always finish with the kids we started. In the business we call this transiency. I hadn't picked Lucy to be one of those kids who wandered away, but as I said, this is the way of our world.
I hadn't picked Lucy to be one of those school-switchers for one main reason: Her older brother Evan had been with us from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade and when his little sister appeared in his last year we assumed we would probably be spending six years with her as well. They came to school with their grandmother, on a series of buses and even though they had this challenge, they both managed to show up periodically on our Perfect Attendance list. That honor was at times mitigated by the number of times Evan was sent home for incidents ranging from vandalism to fighting. Some days Evan was less ready than his grandmother was to have him be at school. He became a project for all of us, working with him to find a way to stretch his patience while we stretched our own. There were several moments last June when we felt that the village it had taken to get Evan to the promotional exercises would not be enough. Watching him cross the stage at the end made it all worthwhile.
Meanwhile, Lucy was scrambling around the school in her own flurry of petty grievances and conflicts. While she was not nearly as aggressive as her older brother, she was more of an instigator. At age five, she already had her posse, and she was not above sending one of her minions into a scrape just to see what would come of it. Part of every recess for yard supervisors, morning and lunch, was locating and tracking that little knot of girls. Fluttering back and forth from the play structure to the bathroom, every kid in their path was a potential target.
Lucy would periodically rush up to me, complaining that boys were chasing her, which was accurate from the standpoint of those boys were trying to catch up to her after being pinched, punched, poked or humiliated in some fashion by her crew. Her grandmother was generally good about listening to the list of offenses accrued by her little ray of light, but the impact of whatever discipline happened at home faded with the dawn of a new day.
There are plenty of other children on our playground who require special attention, and it might be a while before I notice a specific hole in my daily routine. When it does occur to me, I will miss her. A little. And then I will raise my eyes to scan the playground for the one who will take her place.