It is the first day of school. I stand there in the lobby, greeting students as they enter. Scrubbed, sun-kissed, sparkly-eyed kids, excited kids, ready for school. Nervous parents holding the hands of their five year olds. “Can I help you?” I ask.
“Yes, thanks! Where is Mrs. Berg’s room.” I smile and I show them. These kids. These kids dressed in their first-day best. Buttoned shirts and blue bows in their hair. They have new backpacks and lunchboxes and give out enormous smiles and hugs when they see their teacher from the previous year.
Smiles. This year every kid smiles, every parent smiles. They smile because they are greeted by an enormous, adult sized, eagle costumed mascot (AKA the principal). The eagle poses, kids cluster around and first day pictures are taken with it.
This is my 22nd first day as a teacher, and if you consider that I was once a student that number jumps to almost 40 first days. As a mother I sent my children off to their first day of school at least 50 times. That is almost a HUNDRED first days!
I just LOVE first days. Although I was genuinely terrified by a few of them – my first day of kindergarten for example. It was in an Episcopal church, I stood outside dark and dreadful wooden doors. Big doors. Heavy doors. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t open them. So I sat on the stoop and cried. A strident and not-very-nice teacher found me and showed me the nursery with cribs where the “crybabies” go. Not a promising start to my school career, huh?
It got better of course. By the time I was in second grade I would rush to the bus stop 30 minutes before I had to be there just to see my friends. We showed off our new clothes and compared who our teachers would be and wondered who the new kids were and if they were nice.
My parents always took us school clothes shopping. We would roll up to Sears in the old Chevy van, my dad would take the boys and my mom would take the girls. Even though we wore dresses sewn by my mother, (I always matched my sister), we shopped for new shoes (saddle), jackets and play clothes. In case you don’t know what play clothes are… those are the clothes you change into when you come home from school, before you play with your Brio horses. Yeah. I know. No one does that anymore. We actually dressed up for school. That was a thing. Even in the middle of winter, we wore dresses. We wore monochromatic, thick cable-knit stockings and winter boots, but always, always a dress. Flash forward to middle school and I remember wearing my first pair of jeans. It was the first day and I was wearing my first pair of jeans. Jeans!!
Here I stand, 40 years after that dreadful first day of kindergarten and school has become my life, it is what I do, what I love. Small arms wrap around me and little boy tells me excitedly that he has a new brother, another girl sheepishly hands me a book she forgot to turn in last spring. We high five. I direct another new family to Mrs. Berg’s room through doors that open like butter.