If I'd had my way, Iris would have been born at playschool during Circle Time while we were dancing together to the raucus round of "Shake Your Sillies Out." Okay, if I'd really had my way, Iris would have been born a week and a half before that, on my due date, in a painless and efficient homebirth as we had planned, but Iris had other plans. She usually does. She ended up being born two weeks late by c-section on a Wednesday afternoon, while her older sister, Harriet, was being ferried to a playschool classmate's birthday party in Christie Pits by another playschool family.
Iris's whole life has been tied up in playschool. I found out I was pregnant during Harriet's first week of playschool, when she was three years old. September 2012, and I would be so grateful for playschool that autumn when first trimester fatigue practically destroyed me. To have a few hours every morning to get my work done meant that I could go to bed at 8:30, and it was all okay, mostly. Playschool also meant a community, and a group of people to hang out in the park with after school was over, warming bare feet in the sand on surprisingly warm days. Harriet played happily with her friends, and I was just as happy as I chatted with their mothers. I didn't have as much on the go back then, and was always glad to linger. We never ran out of things to talk about. Those with older children were helping to prepare for me my new life with two kids, everyone commiserated in pregnancy complaints, and they were sharing in the joys as well.
At the beginning of my third trimester, I discovered a lump on my neck and spent the next month terrified that I'd be diagnosed with terminal cancer. And I will never forget the kindness of the playschool parents who were there for me during that scary time, from those poor people who'd innocently ask how I was and be met with floods of tears to the ones who reassured me, who shared their own scary stories with satisfying outcomes, and who promised I'd be fine. They were the same people who celebrated with me when we got the good news that all was benign. These people, these amazing women—I hadn't even known them a few months before, but I think they saved my life.
And they continued to do so as my pregnancy progressed, helping me out on my co-op shifts and picking up my slack when I had to sit down or leave to pee all the time. During the final days when I was busy with midwife appointments and ultrasounds, playschool parents were there for us to care for Harriet and fetch her from school. Everybody was waiting: every morning my husband would deliver Harriet to school, and they'd ask him: no baby yet? We tried everything. I recall the look of horror on another parents' face when he arrived during Circle Time and caught a woman (me!) nearly ten months pregnant shaking her sillies out, but I was desperate. Would this baby ever be born?
But she was—her birth announced in the Scribbler—and the next year we returned to playschool with Iris in her carrier on my chest, sleeping and waking. She was the class pet, and never minded the attention. We measured her progress by how far she could creep or crawl across the room. It was not long before she was sitting up on the carpet she hadn't been born upon, gnawing on piece of Kapla to soothe her aching gums. And that year I learned something fundamental about playschool, which was that even though the people were different, they were also always the same. Different individuals, I mean, but the same community, the same vibe.
This has only been underlined to me during the past two years as Iris has attended playschool, making her own friends and making a path that has been distinctly her own. Things are different now—I'm busier than I was when Harriet was small, and don't have time to stay forever in the park as I once did. Afternoons are not as long. There are always places to go and things that need doing, and so I've missed out on the chances to connect and the conversations that I once so cherished. The person who needed them so badly seems like someone I think fondly of, a woman I knew once upon a time when Huron Washington Playground was the centre of the world.
What is family life—what is community—without playschool? It's a question we'll be attempting to answer in a couple of weeks when our playschool days are behind us, although I suspect they'll never be too far behind us. I know that the lessons of playschool, of friendliness, sharing and cooperation, are ones that both parents and children in our family will be carrying with us for a very long time. We'll have the songs and stories we learned there, and we'll have the memories and the friendships. And when all that proves insufficient, we will come back and visit. There is no doubt about it, we'll be seeing you all soon.
We love you, Huron Playschool! Thanks for a wonderful five years.
xo Iris, Harriet, Kerry and Stuart