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

2 good 2 be 4 gotten

blogautographBack in the day before kids wrote spitefully mean things about one another on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media, they actually wrote pleasant words in something called an autograph book.

Instead of ‘sexting’ obscene photos to each other, they would  draw funny, harmless illustrations, with an actual writing instrument like a pencil or pen,  in your autograph book for you to remember them by.

Autograph books became passé eventually.  But if you’re of a certain era, you’ll remember those small hardbound books and you might even have one stashed away in a box of school mementos like I do.  I actually own three of these little gems from my elementary and junior high school days.

All this simple fad required was taking your book to school with you and asking your classmates to sign it.  Mine had different pastel colored pages,  and I still remember the girl who wrote, “Just because I’m writing on pink doesn’t mean that I stink.”    I never thought she was stinky, so I always wondered why she wrote that particular ditty.

Friends penned funny lines in my book like “Yours till the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry” and “I love you, I love you, I love you divine.  Please give me your bubblegum, you are sitting on mine!”  One silly friend wrote, “I went to your funeral.  The preacher did say, This is the shell, the nut has passed away.”

Some entries proved sweet and sentimental like “In the golden chain of friendship, consider me a link” and “In the ocean of friends, count me as a permanent wave.”  As a young girl, I always hoped some handsome young man would write something endearing in my book and my wish came true with this one:  “Roses are red, violets are blue.  Sugar is sweet, but I love you.”

On one special page, my elderly grandfather signed his name.  Nothing more.  Just his name.  But I treasure that signature since both of my maternal grandparents died six months apart from one another when I was nine.

My mother purchased all three autograph books for me and I realize now that she must have wanted me to cherish memories of my school years just as she did.  When my parents passed away and my sisters and I were clearing out all those years of accumulation at our folks’ house, we found our mother’s autograph book from school days dated 1929 to 1934.

The rhyming lines written in my mother’s book are clever and poetic.  I suspect children today don’t memorize poetry very much like those youngsters of yesteryear.  I’d like to share some of the sentiments from my mother’s autograph book and a simpler day and age with you along with my thoughts in parenthesis.

“Remember me well, remember me sick.  And when you buy candy, remember me quick. Your friend, Hazel” (Hopefully, Hazel wasn’t just my mother’s friend when she had candy.)

“Roses are red, pumpkins are yellow.  You’re the girl that stole my fellow. Your friend, Margaret” (Well, at least Margaret was still her friend!)

“When hills and vales divide us and you no more I see, pick up your pen and paper and write a line to me. Your friend, June”  (Friends whether they were near or far.)

“Far out on the ocean carved on a rock are these three words, forget me not.  A friend, Eleanora” (Isn’t that a sweet thought?)

“Remember me and bear in mind, a good true friend is hard to find.  But when you find one good and true, change not the old one for the new.  Your classmate, Marie” (Marie understood friendship well.)

“When you get old and ugly as people often do, remember that you have a friend that’s old and ugly too. Your friend, Esther Olive” (This dear lady is still alive at age 92, elderly but she’s certainly not ugly!)

“A wish for a friend is often given, but my wish for you is a home in heaven.  Your dear friend, Mildred Marie” (Since Mildred Marie cared about my mom’s spiritual life, she was a dear friend.)

“When you get old and are mending britches, think of me between the stitches.  Your friend, Carrie Belle” (This dear lady sewed a lot of stitches right beside my mother over the years.)

“I dipped my pen into the ink and grasped the album tight, but for my life I could not think a single thing to write.  H.R.” (This gentleman was my mother’s cousin – a man of few words but a kind soul.)

My uncle wrote this one in my mother’s book:  “Germany is a country but Texas is a state.  I can see it on your face when you have a date.”    (Since the word date was underlined, I think he suspected a romance was in the works for my mother and his brother, my father, don’t you?)

This entry tickles me pink.  “Remember me and don’t forget you have a friend in [our town].  Pickles are sour, sugar is sweet.  Candy is sticky and the [our town] girls are very tricky.”   (I laugh out loud when I read this one, not just because the verse is silly, but because of the writer’s initials signed at the bottom of the page.  Those initials belonged to my father.)

Out of all the clever, corny, or cherished verses written in my mother’s autograph album, I really like this one:

“When your walk on earth is ended and your paths no more I trod, may your name in gold be written in the autograph of God. Your cousin, Mabel” (I am thankful both my parents’ names are written in the Book of Life.)

My favorite entry though is one written and dated January 8, 1963 in one of my autograph books.  It reads:  “Dear Daughter, I wish I were a tea cup from which you drank your tea, and every time you’d take a sip, you’d think of your mommie.  Lots of love, Mum.”

On this chilly day, Chapter 10, Page 27 in my book of Opportunity, I sip steaming,  hot tea from my lovely tea cup given to me by one of my own dear daughters as I write these words.  I think of my mother, her life, and all the things she taught me like cherishing memories from an old, faded autograph book.  I think she taught me well and I pray I’ve taught my own daughters the same.

©2011 mamasemtpynest.wordpress.com