Yesterday I took just-turned-three year old Boo to her orientation day at pre-school. It's the same pre-school attended by her big brother and sister many years ago, the same pre-school in which I sat on a teeny tiny chair and sobbed uncontrollably for a full hour when my Pinkela 'graduated' in mini robes and a hat. Back then, four years ago, I didn't think I was going to have any more children, and my Pinkela, my baby, was all grown up.
Incredibly, just over a year after Pinkela moved to big school, my baby Boo was born. As many of you will know, it was a time of tremendous sadness as well as great joy, because my beloved sister had died only three weeks earlier. Tanya was very close to my big kids - her precious niece and nephew - and they loved their only Auntie deeply. But she never got to meet her youngest niece. Tanya never got to see Boo's huge dark eyes, or the fact that she has the only 'outy' belly-button in the family. She never got to discover Boo's ecclectic taste in music (everything from 'Incy Wincy Spider' to pretty much anything by the Black Eyed Peas), or her preference for 'tuna-from-a-can' and 'freddo-frog-the-head-AND-body!'. She never got to attend Boo's first birthday party, or see her first steps, or watch as she sat proudly on the toilet for the first time.
And of course, she wasn't there to hear about her orientation day at pre-school.
Or was she?
Because something slightly magical happened yesterday. We adults were sitting in a circle listening to a talk from the director whilst our children had morning tea with the teachers in the room next door. The director discussed opening hours, protocols, naptime arrangements, food, and all the minutia of daily life at pre-school. Then she handed out a few of the 'weekend books' to pass around and look at. The weekend books are scrapbooks, taken home by each child in each class once a year, and returned to pre-school to be shared and discussed. They detail what the child did on their weekend, and include pictures and drawings and various other details that paint a picture of each child's family life. Given that the pre-school has three classes per year, and each class has their own book, there have been many books over the years.
So what were the chances that the book that happened to land on my lap - the book helpfully passed to me by a mother I've never met - was from my daughter's last year at pre-school? And what were the chances that the particular weekend we'd documented in the book (a weekend I'd completely forgotten) was the weekend we'd all gone to Auntie Tanya's house for dinner to celebrate my birthday?
Chances or not, that's the book I got. And in some small way, it was like Tanya popping her head in, making her enduring presence known. It reminded me that I still have a relationship with my sister, even if it's not the relationship it was. I may not be able to call Tanya about Boo's first day at pre-school, or about Pinkela's dance concert, or my son's presentation ceremony at school, but I can still talk to her about them, and I believe she will hear.
As for little Boo, well, her Auntie Tanya is at pre-school with her, and always will be. And for some reason, I find this very comforting.