Everybody who’s ever taken a class at Sunflower and then stayed afterwards while their kids played on the playground has, at some point (usually after a long, long time of playing) heard these words from Susan: “Take your children and leave!”
Sunflower is a busy humming community, a real “third place” kind of hangout, but nobody—not Jonathan or Sandra or Whitney, not even Susan—lives here. At some point everybody has to go home.
When Suzie was a Seedling, she’d entertain elaborate fantasies about living at Sunflower: playing hard with her friends all day, eating sunbutter and jelly sandwiches for dinner from the snack supplies in the cupboard, sleeping in the Cozy Corner at night, and then waking up to do it all again. She always was devastatingly disappointed when I told her (bad mommy!) that this dream was never going to come true.
Sierra too, never wants to leave, and she always comes up with creative reasons to stay juuust a little longer. Now an amazingly self-possessed almost-five-year-old, she practically (and quite literally) grew up at Sunflower, from the time she was a tiny two-month-old baby tucked in a sling, happily nursing and sleeping while I did my co-op helper days for Suzie’s Seedlings class.
And then there’s me. I’ve been convinced for years that Susan originally picked me to join the Sunflower Board of Directors, and eventually the Sunflower staff, because I was always just hanging around (fortunately I ended up having some serious skills for my job, as well). I found Sunflower at a time in my life as a mother when I desperately needed a home and a community. I arrived here about six years ago for what I thought was a mommy and me “art class,” and ended up finding much more: so much friendship and support and intellectual challenge and, yes, even my own voice.
Last Thursday Sierra walked over the bridge for the last time, during the annual Seedlings Bridging Day graduation ceremony. The bridge itself is just a short cement arc that makes up part of the Seedlings trike track—the kids have each crossed it dozens, hundreds, of times in the course of their play—but what it means symbolically on this day is quite emotional. It marks an ending, and many new beginnings.
Sierra, for one, is going off to junior kindergarten next year after two ridiculously short, gone-in-a-flash years as a Seedling, during which she played and made friends and took risks and did crazy-fun things she never could have experienced anywhere but in this program. I’m nothing but happy for her, but as I stood on the sandy playground last week, for the last time as a Seedlings parent, I was struck by the fact that this really will be my own very last Bridging Day.
That idea makes me sad, but at the same time I know it’ll all be okay. Life is ever changing, circumstances fleeting, childhood short and precious and delicious like a summer twilight. I hate change, but I know the future holds unimaginable—maybe even wonderful—surprises, and part of life’s joy lies in the moving on, the making room for the next big ‘something.’
Plus I know a little secret: Susan always begins the Bridging ceremony with just the Seedlings. She asks each child to make a cup with their hands and place in it all their Seedlings memories—the joyous, the tearful—then to take those memories and press them into their hearts, “So that you always have a little bit of Seedlings to take with you wherever you go.”
Every single Bridging Day—four of them, counting both Suzie’s and Sierra’s time as Seedlings—I’ve taken my cup, filled it up, and pressed its contents into my heart, to the point now that it’s practically overflowing.
It’s still so hard to leave, but I know I’ll never really have to. The lessons and the love of Seedlings are pressed firmly into my heart. They’re pressed into Suzie’s heart and Sierra’s heart. And, knowing that, we can always come back home.
© Jaime Greenberg and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
What a gorgeous story, Jaime. You are lucky to have been in Susan’s world. She is, indeed, a very special person. You and Sierra will forever benefit from her love of life. It sounds like you understand it well.
What a nice tribute to Susan and all of Sunflower.