Edward and I are breakfast buddies. Edward is one of our youngest Transitional Kindergarten students. He has an older brother, and that's how he gets to school, but once he lands on the playground his brother is off doing second grade things with his second grade buddies. That means Edward needs somebody to help him get to breakfast.
I can usually count on him to show up just as the breakfast bell rings at seven fifty-five. At this time, the majority of the kids who have descended on the playground go scurrying off to line up for whatever the school district has to offer for their morning meal. Edward takes a straight path to me at this point and looks up expectantly. Most mornings we don't have to say a word. I hold out a finger and we walk, hand in finger, to the cafeteria.
Once inside, we make our way to the open door on the right, where we pick up a tray and the fruit of the day. I know if there are oranges, I will be sticking around just a little longer to help get the peeling started. Then it's on to the main event: cereal or something warm. For the first month, I was pretty sure that all Edward would eat was cereal, since that's what he pointed at and that's what he wanted me to put in his tray. One morning I decided to cross him up by putting a bagel in front of him. When we walked over to the table, I smeared some cream cheese on it. "It's like a breakfast sandwich," I told him. After the first bite, he was sold. I have gotten him to try a few other things, but never anything with scrambled eggs. Waffles are a favorite, as is the sausage biscuit. Just don't stick any of that suspect yellow junk in there to mess up his palate. All of these is washed down nicely by a carton of milk sucked furiously through a straw.
This was our pattern, until the middle of last week. On the third rainy day in a row, Edward came up to me in the hallway when the bell rang, and then moved straight on past to line up with the other kids. Monday was our hundredth day in school, and suddenly he had decided to do things for himself. I sat on the edge of pride and sadness, as all grownups do once the little ones in their lives start caring for themselves. I won't miss the orange peeling, or the angry fuss over not getting a second breakfast, but I will miss the walk to the cafeteria.
Maybe we can still take that trip occasionally, just for old time's sake. I'm not getting any younger. And neither is Edward.