Since she was born, little Ashley Noel stuck to her mother’s hip.
It was mom who privately tutored her during her prekindergarten years, and Ashley didn’t step foot into a classroom until she was 5 years old. When that day came, on Aug. 14, 2006, Ashley was terrified to let go. Inside a classroom at Miami Shores Elementary School, she hugged her mother goodbye as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
“She was like, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to stay here,’” mother Sarah Noel, 37, said.
The tender moment, captured by photographer Emily Harris for the Miami Herald, was published on the front page that following morning. Naturally, mom kept a copy of the paper and would use it to teach her three younger daughters not to be afraid of their first day of school, but she hadn’t thought much about it for the better part of 13 years.
Until Thursday, when a surge of memories flooded her thoughts while Ashley, now 18 years old, graduated from North Miami Senior High School. She texted her 15-year-old, Felicia, to check if they still had the newspaper at home. Then she asked Ashley if she wanted to recreate the memory.
“She was like, ‘Do you remember this?,’” Ashley said. “I said, ‘Of course I don’t remember it. I was in kindergarten.’”
When they got home, Noel’s landlord snapped a photo of mother and daughter in each other’s arms, the closing of one chapter of the teenager’s life.
“She wanted to finish it the way I started it,” Ashley said. “I appreciate it because I know there are people out there who don’t have mothers like that.”
Ashley plans to take a short break from school to travel before attending New World School of the Arts and hone her skills as a traditional artist. Noel said she hopes Ashley cherishes the memories they spent together.
“Me holding on to it shows her that no matter what your mom is there for you,” she said.