Today should have been Madeline’s first day of Kindergarten.

Her late birthday would have put her in transitional kindergarten last year, but today would have been the big day. The pictures, the first time with a backpack, the whole shebang. Kindergarten is a huge milestone, and it’s another one that she is missing.

I am focusing on Annabel starting school next week. I took her to the store and we picked out a lunch box, thermos, and a special first day dress and pair of shoes. I’ve poured over the pamphlets the school has sent us to make sure I’ll have everything she’ll need. She’s ready.

When I was filling out Annabel’s paperwork, there was a question, “Is there anything else we need to know about your child?” I’d already answered the other questions about the things she likes, nicknames, stuff like that. While I was pondering what else to write, Annie walked over to me and asked me some hard questions about her sister. After the two of us talked for a while, I turned back to the form and wrote

Annabel has an older sister who passed away before she was born. Annabel speaks about her often, and has been asking a lot of questions about her sister lately. She is a bright, curious girl, and we are so proud of her.”

This morning we are taking Annabel to meet her preschool teachers, and we’ll be passing the elementary school. I am prepared to see the parents of the kindergarteners giving their kids nervous hugs and kisses. I am prepared for it to really, really hurt. And then I am prepared to turn all of my energy toward Annabel and her special milestone, because not only does she deserve all the excitement and attention, but I deserve to be excited for her. This is  another one of the many moments of balancing grief and happiness that I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I think after we meet her teachers, I’ll take my girl out for breakfast. Something special, for the both of us.