Dear Mrs. Audrey Penn,
I remember crying hysterically, gasping desperately for air in between each sob, while my mom was attempting to tuck me in to bed one late summer night. It was the night before my first day of first grade. At the age of six, I had decided that I would never get out of my bed again. Getting out of bed would mean I would have to go to school in the morning. If there was one thing for which I was sure, it was that I was never going to school.
My mother called my sister and brother in to talk with me and calm me down while she went downstairs for a minute to grab something. Both my siblings would be at the same school with me. (The school was a private, Lutheran school that went from preschool to eighth grade.) My sister would be entering seventh and my brother, fourth. They told me that they would be just a hallway away if I needed anything at school, which was comforting, but that was not what I was worried about. I attended kindergarten at this school last year. I had come many times to watch my siblings play a sport in the gym or perform in a band concert. Not to mention, I had been there every Sunday for as long as I could remember, since we attended church there. I was certainly comfortable with the building. That is not why I was crying. I was not really worried about my new teachers and making new friends either, although both those thoughts had definitely crossed my mind. What was truly making me upset was the fact that, as a first grader, I would have to go to school for the full day. As a kindergartner, I did not have to go to school until after lunch. Therefore, I got to spend the mornings alone with my mom- just her and me. Going to first grade would mean I would never have those mornings again with just the two of us.
When my mom returned to my room, tears continued to roll down my cheeks as I tried to catch my breath and calm down. In her hand, I saw for the first time, the glossy, sky blue cover of The Kissing Hand. She told my sister and brother to say goodnight and go to bed. When they left, my mother opened the book and staring me right in the face was a little raccoon with tears strolling from his big, black eyes. He looked identical to me at that moment. My mom began reading the familiar words, "Chester Raccoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried."
As my mom read, I learned the secret of the kissing hand. "Mrs. Raccoon took Chester's left hand and spread open his tiny fingers into a fan. Leaning forward, she kissed Chester right in the middle of his palm... 'Now, whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think, "Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you." And that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts."'
The next morning at school, after my sister and brother had already entered the building, my mom kissed my palm and told me she loved me. Then, I turned around and walked into school as the most confident and unafraid first grader that I could be. Later at school, I found a sticker in my folder to remind me of our secret. It was a red heart that said "The Kissing Hand." I raised my palm to my cheek and was immediately filled with my mother's love and confidence.
Not only did The Kissing Hand get me out of bed on that morning ten years ago, it also has filled me with the confidence and love needed to take on every new chapter and struggle that I have faced and will continue to face in my life. The secret of the kissing hand not only helped me when I was younger at school, but it also comforted me when I went away to camp, when my grandparents passed away when I was just a young girl, when I started high school, and in every new chapter of my life. I plan to take the secret of the kissing hand with me when I go away to college and start my career. Hopefully, I will be able to share the secret with my own kids someday, just as my mom shared it with me. The Kissing Hand continues to remind me in soft, subtle ways that my mom is always with me and loves me very much.