Empty nesters like me have forgotten the, er, thrill of the first-day-of-school drill, right?
I may forget where I left my car … in my garage, because I walked to the store.
But I still can feel Mom brushing my hair into a tight ponytail that relocated my eyes. Before the bus arrived, she asked if I’d changed my underwear, then hugged me goodbye.
Clutching a box of unbroken crayons, I entered a classroom that smelled of chalk dust and my teacher’s flowery perfume.
We were issued information cards to give our parents. I could read and knew my address and phone number. One blank, however, stumped me.
After school, I asked Mom, “What’s sex?”
She straightened. “Honey, where did you hear about sex?”
“It’s on the cards—”
“The school cards.” I handed her mine.
Why did she chuckle? “The school wants to know if you’re a girl or boy.”
“I’m a girl!” Mystery solved. I felt immense relief.
She probably felt more.
Fast-forward 25 years. My eldest, starting kindergarten, also knew how to read. We had practiced our address and phone number. I had instructed her about sex blanks.
She donned her Strawberry Shortcake backpack. I plunked my toddler into a stroller.
The school, though located across the street, seemed a world away.
“Time to go,” I said brightly.
“I want to go by myself.”
My heart shriveled. “But—but—all the other mothers get to come.”
“I don’t want you to come.”
“You might get lost!”
“We visited my room. Two whole times.”
How had she mastered a teenage eye-roll? “Uh—”
She looked carefully both ways and crossed the street. But at the school’s entrance, she paused.
She needed me! To my two-year-old’s delight, the stroller and I galloped madly toward the school.
But my kindergartener had disappeared.
Now I paused, chewiing my nails. Should I risk another eye-roll?
Instead, I slunk home and suffered. Had my child indeed found her classroom?
Or had aliens abducted her?
When the school’s dismissal bell rang, the sight of the familiar little figure saved my life. “How was school?”
“Okay. But I didn’t like the cookies.”
She’d found her room! She’d filled out her information card herself. She knew her sex.
But she had balked at the teacher’s listing her race as white. “I told her you said I was pinky-beige.” My daughter groused, “She put a ‘W’ in the blank anyway!”
Apparently, my child had taken our racial discussions to heart. …
Ah, the first day of school. I may be a spectator now, but I haven’t forgotten the thrill of the drill.
As if I ever could.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What first-day-of-school memory stands out for you?