Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Back to school no more

blogDSCN0263Autumn hasn’t flaunted its pretty self yet.  My wall calendar only turns over its leaf to September tomorrow, but there’s something in the air that conjures up the feeling of fall. And as always, I am so ready for the change of season.

Stepping outside my door, I can sense it. I can feel it. I can smell it. Fall is on its way. The days have cooled down and the nights are cooler yet.  Thankfully, a crispness in the fresh air shoved summer’s heat and humidity out of the way.

That crispness reminds me of one thing – it’s time to go back to school. Many years have passed by since I sent my last child off to his final year of college classrooms. School shopping for supplies and college dorm rooms are a thing of the past for me, and I can honestly say I don’t miss that one bit.

For over a decade, I experienced that back-to-school feeling myself when I worked for a non-profit as an education program coordinator and visited public and private school classrooms. For the last four years, I headed back to school as a private school substitute teacher.

But for the first time in oh, so many years, there won’t be that back to school feeling for me. My subbing days are limited because I’ve traded that job in for an even more important one – taking care of my granddaughter while my daughter works. And I’ve decided to join the ranks of the semi-retired.

So even though school days have become a thing of the past, I can still recall that back to school feeling quite vividly. Thinking back over my own first days of school, excitement and a bit of nervousness always was the norm.

In elementary school, I already knew who my teachers would be and who the other students were in my class, unless there was a new kid. Walking to the bus stop in the dewy morning with a nip of cold in the air, I remember shivering slightly, a little from the briskness of the morning and the topsy-turvy nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.

By the time I reached junior and senior high school, the excitement and nervousness accelerated. There were so many things to worry about!

Awakening a good bit earlier than those leisurely summer days, I know I carefully dressed in one of my new outfits hoping to fit in with the latest styles everyone else would certainly be wearing. Hair and a smidge of makeup had to be just right as well.

Back to school then meant new class schedules, new locker assignments, new teachers, and not knowing who would be in your classes or who would have the same lunch period as you.

It meant Friday night football games cheering your school team on in the chilly night air while scoping out cute boys that you just never noticed before. It meant reuniting with friends and classmates that you may have not seen all summer.

After a hot, sluggish summer season, back to school meant the start of something new. And maybe that’s why the thought of back to school always invokes the allure of fall for me. 

When there’s a little bite of chilliness in the air, I experience renewed vigor. Somehow fall days feel cleaner, fresher, and way more invigorating than summer did.

And even though it smells like the beginning of school outside, the big yellow buses are traveling down the roadways, and social media is plastered with all of those first day of school children’s photos, my back to school thoughts are just memories now…well, at least until little sweetie gets old enough to attend school.

But I’m more than ready to meet my beloved autumn season head on. I can’t wait.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I smell….school!

blogDSCN0263There!  That’s it!  Did you catch a whiff of that?  I definitely smell school, do you?

The other morning, I awakened and took a nice deep breath while I lazily stretched in bed.  And that’s when I caught a whiff of the air circulating in and out of our bedroom via the open windows.  It smelled like school.

I can’t really describe it with words, but there’s a distinct smell in the early morning air this time of year.   The days are still warmed by the sunshine, but the nights commence their descent into cooler temperatures.  I’m certain there must be a scientific reason for what transpires but I don’t know what it is.  All I know is that fragrance in the air reminds me of going back to school.

Even though it’s been decades since I jumped on a school bus or packed up my belongings for dorm life, that smell transports me back in time to the first few days of a new school year.   I can vividly recall standing outside my house, shivering a bit in the cool, morning air, excited and yet a little nervous, waiting for the school bus to arrive on the first day back to school.  Yep, the scent in the air reminds me of crisp recently purchased school clothes, clean white tennis shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, and pristine notebooks with no doodles defacing them.

This time of year, stores tout their back-to-school sales and the aisles overflow with everything you ever wanted to start a new school year with and more.  At the discount store, I maneuver past mothers with children in tow loading up their shopping carts with packs of crayons, glue, rulers, markers, and backpacks.   College aged students heap all those dorm necessities into their carts.  A walk in the mall reveals families purchasing school clothes and the shoe stores swarm with children trying on shoes.   I notice school buses timing their practice runs.

My nose is right.  It’s time to go back to school.   Gone are the days when my children and I piled in the car, school supply lists in hand, to begin the annual ritual of back to school shopping.   The arrival of a new school year generated excitement with transitions from elementary to middle to high school to college, another season of sports practices and games, different schedules to learn, and new teachers to meet.

After a summer of leisure and relaxation, the smell of fall in the air meant the hustle and bustle of a new school year was about to descend and we had to get ready! But now at Mama’s Empty Nest, the scent of school in the air just ushers in a new season.  I can sit on my front porch swing in the warmth of the afternoon, watch the school buses drive by, hear the chatter of students on the bus, and reminisce about those days of putting my own children on the big yellow bus for another year of learning.

It’s my second year of not sending someone back to school, and in Chapter 8, Page 22, of my book of Opportunity, I can honestly say I’ve made peace with that.  No marathon shopping excursions, no frantic run to Wal-Mart in college town because we forgot this, that, or the other thing.  I find extending summer relaxation into this back to school season enjoyable, but the best part of all is my check book is a lot healthier too!

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com