"I don't want to do this." My hands clenched the steering wheel.
"It'll be okay," Chad said reassuringly.
"But what if it's not?" My eyes filled with tears. "What if I hate it?"
"It's not that simple."
"But what about Joseph? How will I know he'll be okay? How do I know he'll be safe? What if he forgets me?"
"Stop. You loved the daycare. Miss Young seems great. He'll be fine."
"What if they're mean?"
"Miss Young will take care of it."
"No," I blinked the tears back. "What if they're mean to me?"
"They're not going to be."
"That's what we thought about Dragon Lady. I can't go through that again," I whispered
"Then you'll quit. We'll be okay for a while."
I nodded my head, sniffing.
"Look, baby, if you really don't want to go, call in and say you changed your mind."
"Really?" I squeaked.
Chad nodded. "Really. You can get out of the car right now and call them. But before you do, remember jobs like this don't come around too often. The pay's great for part time and it seems like you're going to have a lot of time off."
I sniffed again and squared my shoulders. "You're right. It'll be fine. I know it'll be fine."
I backed out of the garage, tearing up at the sight of Chad holding an eighteen month old Joseph in his arms as I drove away.
Forty-five minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot and checked the rear view mirror. My hair was fixed, my make up on. The clock showed I was five minutes late from unexpected road construction. Nervous, I walked into the office and found my new boss.
John looked up from his desk with a smile and shook my hand. He showed me my cubicle and introduced me to Mary, the woman who'd been subbing and was tasked with teaching me the ropes. I put my purse away and followed John into the Board Room where the entire department was sitting, waiting to start their meeting.
My stomach lurched as I met the smiling faces. I sat down in silence and stared around the tables. Little did I know that I was meeting a new family.
Today is my last day with that little family. They've been there for four years, comforting me, coaching me, teaching me, encouraging me, cheering me, appreciating me. They threw me a surprise baby shower when I was pregnant with Elizabeth. They coo'd and aww'd over her pink adorableness. They plopped a cheese hat on Joseph's head and sent him home with books and pockets filled with candy.
They shared my interests, shared my hobbies, shared my lunch. They gossiped with me about reality TV, bailed me out when I was drowning, and kept a steady stream of books in my hands.
Maybe it was the incredible hours. Maybe it was the amazing boss. Maybe it was the walks in the middle of no where. Maybe it was coming from a place that wasn't nearly as nurturing. Whatever it was, not a day went by that I wasn't happy to be there.
I started my first day with fear and nerves. I started it with an upset stomach and low expectations.
I started my last day with tears and a heavy heart. I started it with the knowledge I must move forward and the expectation that no place will ever feel quite as good.
Thank you, my friends, for an amazing four years. I'm going to miss you.
21 hours ago