Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day of School

He starts school today. He thought, studied, tested, planned, researched, applied, considered, decided, registered, funded and relocated. I watched. He owns the entire experience, and I'm bursting with pride at the same time as I am having an awful time not being there and helping.

Daddooooo always gave us a new pencil the night before the first day of school. It had the logo of his business, fancy green calligraphy and a point that was sharpened to the teeniest tiniest most perfect tip. It made you want to get to school the next morning just so you could write with it.

We got new shoes for the first day of school. Gym shoes were just that - shoes you wore in gym class. They weren't worn in the classroom and if you hadn't grown, last year's model would work just fine. But you definitely got new school shoes, along with a new purse or lunch box depending on your age and gender and a haircut and 3 new outfits. I suppose we out-grew or ripped or otherwise mutilated clothes which had to be replaced, but I don't remember much beyond the 3 new outfits and the shoes.

If you had a smart mom, which we did, you'd already bought the basic school supplies a week or so earlier. The notebooks had to be the right thickness, and the lines on the paper the exact shade of blue. Our 3-ring binders with light blue cloth covers and a printed label inside the front cover where you wrote your name and new grade started out pristine and ended up ravelling at the edges and covered in doodles and notes and memories of the year transcribed as they happened.

Personally, I preferred the 48-count box of Crayolas to the 64-count. In third grade we were allowed to bring ink pens to school. Real ink pens, since ball-points were a rarity (Bich and the Biro brothers created the clear plastic stick pen in 1952, the year I was born). You could bring a fountain pen and an ink jar or you could use a cartridge pen with disposable plastic ink cartridges (some things never change). Lavender or turquoise or black or royal blue inks were all acceptable; red was only for the teacher.

Beyond providing my pencil and a good luck hug and kiss, Daddooooo's role was to leave in the morning before I got up, just like he did every morning. Getting to school was a G'ma and kids operation and he only got in our way. Routine, down to the last possible minute, was the key to a successful departure. Thinking ahead and trying to stay calm were laudable goals, but doing the same thing the same way every morning was the secret.

There are all these little things that Moms do at the beginning of school. They make sure you have pencils and a backpack and notebooks and lunch money. They worry for you so you can enjoy those last few days of summer. They tell you where you have to be and when you have to be there and they get yelled at if you aren't on time so you don't have to worry because Mom is taking care of it. And Mom's relaxed, because she knows just how slow you'll be and exactly how late you can sleep and she won't let you down.

That's my fantasy, anyway. The reality was somewhere closer to "she'll be really pissed at you if you don't get in the car right now" combined with "I really really hate to be late" with a dash of anticipation and anxiety thrown in for good measure. But Mom's there in the middle of it.

The year seems to start in September not January, for me. The sense of newness, of wonder, of the dream not sullied by reality - I remember it as a student and as a parent. And he's there and I'm not and I'm feeling the loss.

And I think, if I admit it to myself, that I'm just a bit jealous, too.

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