Today I was driving to work and I noticed something: there were kids everywhere. Normally I never see kids in my neighborhood, I think because kids don’t play outside like when I was a kid and we were all outside all the time. But there’s a school two blocks from my house and when school starts, there they all are.
As the day progressed everyone at work was talking about their kids first day at school, and my Facebook feed was filled with pictures of first days and milestones: first day of kindergarten, first day of junior high, first day of senior year. I don’t have kids so I normally don’t pay a lot of attention to school schedules, but seeing all the kids heading to school today made me a bit nostalgic for my own school days. Those kids with their new clothes and new backpacks and faces full of excitement — once that me. Once that was you.
I had a flash of my first day of first grade. We were all there in our uniforms and knee socks (I went to Catholic school) feeling so grown up because we’d “graduated” from kindergarten. Sister D’Arc, our principal, came in and said “Happy Autumn.” I’m sure most of us looked at her blankly so she explained that autumn was another word for “Fall”. Then she taught us how to spell autumn and I still remember her repeating with us about ten times: “A-U (pause) T-U (pause) M-N”. It was a big word so we were excited to learn it. Ah, the simple joys of youth.
The best thing for me about the first day of school was the new books and supplies. The fresh box of crayons, the freshly sharpened pencils, the new folders or (when I was in high school) the new Trapper Keeper binder, the books with fresh covers and un-bent pages.
Every year felt so full of promise and excitement. It got me thinking, what do we have that’s comparable as adults? We might get excited about our wedding or a new job or a vacation or an event we do every year, like a relay race. We may even get excited about our kids going back to school. But we don’t really have anything for us that’s so epic like Back to School.
Remember how the summer would seem to last forever, then suddenly it was mid-August and you were shopping for school supplies, getting new clothes, thinking about seeing your friends again, when you were older you were picking classes….it was such a great build-up. We were excited, nervous, curious, maybe sad about the end of summer.
Then finally, finally the big day would come. You’d have the excitement of going to school, meeting your new teachers, seeing who was in home room with you, checking out your new books. When it was a milestone like kindergarten, high school, or some other time when the school would change, you’d have to figure out where the gym was, where was the office, how to find your classes, which kids came with you from your old school and which kids were new.
And everyone around you was in the same place and experiencing the same thing so there was that shared camaraderie and group experience. The first first day of school was so filled with promise and hope and possibility.
Don’t you wish you were wearing new clothes and carrying new supplies and making new friends today? Don’t you wish that you could spend the next nine months learning and growing and making memories? Don’t you wish that you started today full of excitement and hope and possibility? I sure do.
Happy Autumn, and Happy Back to School Day.
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