Even though I lived for summer as a kid and was less than enthusiastic about school, I still felt that tingling excitement of the first day of school. The trip to Natelson brothers to get some new clothes, to the 5 &10 store to get my school supplies—new pencils, a ruler, perhaps a notebook or two. And sometimes even a new lunchbox. (If you’re born after 1980, you may have to look some of this up. Today’s child is shopping on Amazon, updating their i-Pad, getting a new backpack capable of holding some 40 pounds of stuff and looking into sushi takeaway places). That was the getting-ready ritual.
Then the day itself, when you re-united with classmates you hadn’t cared to look up over the summer, note who had grown, note who you still preferred to avoid and who seemed a little more interesting. There was the excitement of standing in a new line outside, physical proof that you were evolving and heading toward the top of the pack and new place in the pecking order. And then the anticipation of the new teacher, who you had heard was “nice” or “really strict” or both at the same time. And truth be told, after the initial euphoria of the aimless summer days began to wear off by September, some part of you was ready for a little structure, a larger social group, a sense of new possibility that was much more of a genuine New Year than January 1st.
And so yesterday, my granddaughter Zadie went shopping the other day for her new clothes, arranged everything neatly to be put into her backpack and uncharacteristically announced after dinner, “I think I’ll go to bed early tonight to be ready for tomorrow.” I’m feeling her expectant eagerness and am so excited and happy for her, vicariously re-living the memory of all my first days of school as a kid. With one big difference:
TODAY IS APRIL 5TH!!!!!Like Christmas in July, there is something so wrong about that! And think about it. She’ll be at school a mere two months and then it’s “Yee=haw! Summer vacation?” Just one of the many weird manifestations of the pandemic. But still, she was so fed up as I believe all kids and teachers were, with seven months of Zoom and is so happy! Even though it will only be for two hours a day.
Of course, one of the perks of Zoom was that she could visit us and still “be” at school. Now we’ll have to attend strictly to her calendar and wild horses could not drag her away from live school, no matter what enticing event was going on here in San Francisco. And it also allowed for me to be the music teacher for her class, once a week for the whole seven months. I think I’ll get to continue until June in some capacity or another, but when things go back to normal, that won’t be part of it.
So “Happy First Day of School!” to my granddaughter and children in all places where school is finally opening again. Stay safe, enjoy each other, be kinder than usual and see if you remember how to talk to and play with live human beings!
P.S. And don't forget to pack your mask in your backpack!