Cynthia L. Eppley 09/10/2021
“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Dr. Seuss
It is that time of year.
If you look through our old pictures, you will find the mandatory “First Day of School” pictures.
Fresh scrubbed faces, freckled with the summer sun.
Huge grins, anticipating the year ahead.
Neatly combed hair; except that one “sticky up” part that just refused to stay down. We might wet it, but it would dry and “Boing!!!!” up it would fly.
And school would not be the same without new school clothes.
Typically a rite of Grandmothers and their grandchildren, it is a special time of picking out a few new things.
And no matter how hot it was…..first day of school meant trying to wear one of the outfits. Maybe not the sweaters, but certainly there would be something we could wear.
New shoes were mandatory. It seemed like our feet grew inches between the last fitting.
But this fitting was special because it was for the first day.
My shoe of choice was “Penny Loafers” from Hoffman’s Shoe Store.
The new shoes had to be worn; the old shoes wrapped in the box.
Never mind that we came home that first day from school with blisters.
We wore them—the shoes and the blisters—proudly.
There is something anticipatory about a fresh pad of paper, awaiting an essay. Or freshly sharpened pencils. Remember the pencil sharpener at the front of the class? With pencil shavings dropping onto the floor?
Fresh crayons, markers, pencil bags. And then there were “Trapper Keepers”—the ultimate in storage.
To be replaced by Texas calculators and now iPads and who knows what else? Somehow I don’t think the high tech gadgets have the same tactile and sensory stimulus.
Teachers and Friends
Back then, we knew our assigned classroom and teacher.
The card came in the mail, and frantic phone calls were made to friends. “Do you have the same teacher?”
It meant everything to have at least one friend in your class.
Classmates meant everything.
When the bell rang, students rushed out the door.
Before long, they tumbled in the front door, filled with stories from the day.
Where were you seated?
Was it boy/girl? That had to be the worst because having the opposite sex surround you meant you might get “cooties.”
Were you seated near friends?
What was the teacher like?
It was the privilege of parents to sit and be regaled with story after story. And perhaps get a special treat.
First day meant cookies.
They might even be fresh out of the oven.
Chocolate chip was the cookie of choice.
One of my friends has continued this tradition for her child who has just entered 8th grade. This child will remember this tradition, for sure.
It warmed the tummy, but also the heart to know that this ritual embedded in our minds and hearts just how significant “first day” could be.
First Day 2021
This year is different.
We are into 18 months of a Pandemic.
We never quite know what to expect.
At first we were told: “Two weeks and we’ll beat this thing.” But time has drug on.
Masks have taken on a life of their own: Paper or Cloth?
Designer or Plain?
Statement fashion? You name it: there’s a mask for that.
Depending on your school district, you may be required to wear a mask.
School desks have been placed the mandatory distance apart.
Some have plastic partitions encasing them.
Individual pods for each pupil drive home the point of being distant and separate.
Inschool/Out of School
School districts have scrambled to accommodate students.
Last year many classes were held virtually.
New technology has kept up (for the most part) with the need for education.
Teachers have been creative and logged innumerable hours to change up their approach. Students have learned to adapt.
And this year, many schools have opened their doors once again.
First Day of School 2021
Things change, but so much remains the same.
New outfits have been bought this year; jeans have replaced matching outfits. Squeaky sneakers run down hallways, the replacement for penny loafers.
A group of students just rushed down the sidewalk on their way home;
cookies may be waiting.
Moms or Dad, or Grandmoms or Caregivers will be eager to hear stories.
Fresh faced kids will burst through the door and excitedly share the news of their day.
This doesn’t change.
Nor should it.
Masks, social distancing, virtual school: these things may change.
For Fall 2021, and for any day of First Days of School:
Can we embrace the enthusiasm of youth?
Can we set aside the cares of this world and age, and allow the kids to be kids?
Can we sit and review their day, embracing the best, and helping them through the challenges?
Our attentive listening, caring, and acceptance of them will go far.
This is the stuff of connection and encouragement that our children need; that we all need. Like chocolate chip cookies: warming the tummy and the soul.
Who knows what memories of First Day will take root?