I loved Chuck’s preschool. It was exactly like mine—the nursery school at the synagogue. They learned the same Hebrew words and songs that we did, learned about the same holidays, and every Friday they celebrated Shabbat with challah and grape juice. There are few food combinations more perfect than challah and grape juice.
The preschool could have been a little more diverse—OK, a lot more diverse—and it retained remnants of the old days when most families didn’t have two working parents: they closed at 3:00 p.m. every day, at noon on Fridays, and there was no school in the summer. When the fall Jewish holidays fell on weekdays, it seemed like the kids missed school every other day. But it was a warm community with many of our favorite families. They brought us meals when Ted was born; I still remember every single one.
The fact that our kids’ first day of preschool was September 11, 2001 may or may not have contributed to the closeness of the group. We dropped off our kids that morning, thinking that leaving our babies with others for the first time was the most significant pain we’d face that day. At dismissal three hours later, the parents—most of whom came to Northampton from New York City—were red-eyed and in shock, whispering with each other and trying not to broadcast their trauma to the kids.
We followed with two academic years of playdates, field trips, crafts, and plenty of challah and grape juice. When they were ready for kindergarten, the kids went in many different directions. Some went to the local Jewish day school, others scattered to the various elementary schools in town. It’s a small city, so we’d see each other often, but only a few continued to be regular parts of our lives.
Last week, at a parent’s meeting at the high school, I realized that most of the preschool parents were in the room. With the exception of a few kids, all of our children are back in school together for 9th grade. We haven’t aged a day, but oy, those kids got old. They aren’t all close friends, but there is no doubt that the connections are still there. You can see it especially when they gather together every Friday morning in the high school’s cafeteria for challah and grape juice.