I have taken that walk many times, more than I am able to count, that walk of 174 steps. That is the number to steps it takes from the point of entering the woods to the point of exiting the woods behind my son’s preschool. I have walked that 174 steps over and over with him, as well as with his older siblings, from the fabulous fall colors through the crisp winter snow and into the splendor of spring, all green and fresh. The path winds through the woods providing a relaxing walk, even in the rain or the gently falling snow. I embraced the beauty in the walk each time I took it. In the past, I have always pushed a stroller down that path, but not this year. This is the first year I have had only one child with me. My son. In the morning, we talk about the weather and guess if it will be outside or inside recess, and we wager on what the snack will be. We hold hands, and every day, that little boy tells me that he loves me. He holds my complete attention. My solitary walks back to my car allow me time to organize my day and create my mental to-do list, and on the way to retrieve him, I am able to decompress, to rid myself of all other thoughts, let go of any angst, and place my focus solely on my son for our after school talk. On the way to the car after school, he tells me about his snack (were we correct in our guess?), what he made in messy art (I am able to usually tell at least what color the paint was by his sleeve), and with whom he played on the playground that day. It is the same talk, time after time, day after day, but it seems fresh and new each time we engage. Through the seasons, we have discovered ducks and given them names, found frogs, chased squirrels, counted butterflies as they floated around us, gazed at dragonflies, admired the blooms of the flowers, jumped in puddles, skipped, made up silly songs, watched the ice form along the edges of the path, jumped on the” two woods” (stumps) next to the school, listened to the train in the distance and the wind whisper through the trees, smelled the smells in the air, and just appreciated the nature surrounding us. All of this in 174 steps. In ten days, that is nearly a mile. Over the years, I have completed a couple of marathons, I am sure. Today, though, was the last leg of the final marathon. Today was the last day of school. It isn’t only the last day for my son; it is the last day preschool will be housed in that particular building. I first entered that school seven years ago, so there is a deeper history for my family. I have had four children attend that school. I have walked that 174 steps many, many times. I have sought and found solace within the comfort of those woods. Today, though, my heart was heavy as I made that final walk. The spring was not in my step; the comfort was nowhere to be found. My son is growing up, and as happy as I am to witness that, it places a lump in my throat today. This is it. Every other “last day” was the last day for that particular child; I was returning. Not this time, not ever. It is my final “three year old preschool”. It is the final preschool in that building. It was my final walk down that path to retrieve my child. My final 174 steps. The marathon has come to an end; the victory is bittersweet. But in the fall, we will find ourselves a new path, hand in hand, once again.