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This morning, I put Sophie on at the bus for her last ride. She handed thank you gifts to the driver Dorothy and Tina, the aide (two adults to shuttle one little girl on a very long — suprisingly, no, not a short — bus) and I wished Dorothy well. She’s retiring. She looked at me and smiled and said, “I have a feeling that kindergarten’s going to be a lot harder for you than it is for Sophie.”

She read my mind. That’s not hard these days, since I can feel my thoughts sticking out of my ears.

I have to remind myself that I felt the same way the first day I dropped Sophie off at day care, the first day she moved to the pre-school room, the first time I put her on the bus. It doesn’t help that I’ve developed an attachment bordering on co-dependence with Janice, Sophie’s pre-school teacher.

This morning I emailed Janice to thank her once last time, and told her she’s The Sophie Whisperer. Sophie’s had a lot of amazing caregivers, therapists and teachers already in her young life, but Janice has the vibe. She’s Buddah, calm in a storm of 4 and 5 year olds, some of them with pretty profound special needs (remind me to come up with a better term than “special needs,” some day) and like a dog with high-pitched noises, Sophie’s good at picking up on frayed nerves and reacting stubbornly. Very stubbornly.

Last year, in a random conversation, I asked Janice, “So, how do you react when Sophie yells `YOU’RE MEAN’ in your face, or at strangers?” (Something Sophie’d developed as a regular — and most annoying — habit, I’d seen her do it with me, with Ray, with her grandparents, babysitters, sister, the dog, the cats….) Janice looked confused. “We’ve never heard her say that,” she said. Of course not. Sophie wouldn’t dare. And it’s not because there are threats, not even as much as a “time out,” that I know of. Janice simply has the touch.

So does Ms. X, who I hope will be her kindergarten teacher. (More on Ms. X later.) But after two years, I’m having trouble letting Janice go. Sophie will, too, when she figures out that today was her last with her beloved “Morning Monkeys”. We’ll be mourning monkeys all summer, trust me.

In my email, I apologized to Janice for the tear jerker. As I’ve told this woman, I’ve cried in front of her more in the past few months than I have — perhaps ever — in front of my mom. She emailed back to say yeah, she was sad. She’d just said her good byes at the bus.

She wrote, “I just sent Sophie on her way in the world.”

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My Heart Can't Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome is available from Amazon and 
Changing Hands Bookstore
. For information about readings and other events, click here.
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