It did not hit me that my son’s first year of preschool was really ending until yesterday afternoon, when I took his art projects and papers out of his cubby. There it was: the letter Z. I felt the floor drop away from me as I stared at that final worksheet. My hands actually shook. I marveled at how neatly my son had traced the dots to form the Z and then how he’d copied the letter beneath it. At the smiley face sticker to reward his good work. I thought back to A, B and C back in the fall. The wobbly lines, the tentative pencil. This Z, in comparison, exuded confidence. Z may be the last letter, and underutilized, but it should never be underestimated. It’s fierce. Zounds.

I remember the middle of the alphabet, which hit in the dead of winter. M, N — what awful letters. How to tell them apart? They’re like close-in-age siblings who look like twins, dressing up in each others clothes, fooling people.  O is Okay, I guess. But  P, not so much. And Q  . . . Q! That maddening little tail! And don’t get me started on R — so hard to distinguish from its cousins B and P.

There were dark days this year when I didn’t see how we would make it to Z. The end of the alphabet, like the spring, seemed elusive and receding. Even when W and X appeared in the cubby several weeks ago, I was in denial.

But here we are at Z. Even preschoolers get to enjoy a sense of completion and a sense that goals can be attained. They made it through the alphabet. They are LEARNING TO READ AND WRITE. This is big stuff, people. This is where it all begins. 

I have my own receding Z to look toward right now. The next stage of my novel revisions. Back to work I go, fueled by my son’s amaZing final letter, now proudly tacked above my desk.