The First Day Of School

By

Pamela Perry Blaine

© October 2005

 

 

“How was school, Ben?”  I asked my Grandson after he

began kindergarten this year. 

 

“The work is too long…and there’s not enough time to play,”

he replied with a deep sigh.

 

There are some things that never change, I thought to myself as

I remembered my own first day of school.  I vividly recalled sitting

with my cousin, Suzanne, on her back steps at the end of the first day

of school.  We had been so excited about going to school.  We sat there

with our elbows on our knees and our chins propped up on our hands

as we lamented, like Ben did, “the work is too long… and there’s

not enough time to play.”

 

I couldn’t help but remember Ben’s own mother, my daughter, and her

 reaction to the first day of school.  Julie was also disappointed with

the first day of school and so was her little sister.  “I want to go “sool”

 and you not let me!”  my three-year-old daughter announced

resentfully after her big sister boarded the big yellow school bus.

 

When Julie returned home that afternoon I asked her the same question

 that I had asked Ben, “How was school, Julie?”

 

 Julie also replied with a long, sad face but her answer was a little different

 from Ben’s as she announced, “I didn’t learn to read today.”  

What a disappointment for a little girl who thought she would magically

know how to read her little books after the first day of school.  I had to

explain to her that she would eventually learn to read but

it didn’t happen quite that fast.

 

This year as the school bus went by my house, my mind went back to

 those school days again.  I could almost smell the chalk dust in the air.

 I suppose few, if any, schools still use chalk and blackboards.  They have

probably been replaced with newer equipment and large computer

screens.  One thing that I don’t missed is the irritating sound of the

chalk as some ornery student caused it to screech across the board. 

 

I also wonder what new occupation the children these days manage to

get elected to do in order to get out of school for a few moments since

there are no erasers to clean.  It was fun to be “chosen” for eraser

cleaning duty.  This was a task accomplished by going outside and

beating erasers together while sneezing and coughing.  No wonder

so many baby boomers now have allergies, it’s simply because

we all have chalk dust in our lungs!

 

I remember the excitement of the first day of school when my friends

and I would go peek through the windows of the school house to try to see

 what improvements had been made to the classrooms.  It was during the

summer months that the gym would be varnished and rooms that needed

it would be repainted.  We probably added to the janitor's work with all the

little finger and nose prints of curious children smeared all over the windows.

 

On the first day of school, the anticipation was so great that I would be

up early in the morning and ready long before it was time to leave for school.

We walked about 6 blocks to school in new shoes that felt stiff and restrictive

 after going barefoot so much during the summer months.

 

We didn’t use back packs when I was in school but there wasn’t very much

to carry.  We had some notebook paper, a pencil or two, crayons, a pair

of scissors, and paste.  The paste smelled so good that it was sometimes

a challenge for the teachers to keep some of the smaller

children from eating the paste. 

 

We didn’t miss having back packs because who needs them when we

had cigar boxes!  We carried our small supplies inside of a cigar box from

one of the local stores. The stores in town must have saved cigar boxes all

year just to give to us children because all we had to do was ask and the

store owner would give us one. We saved them and used them from year

 to year until they fell apart. A notebook full of paper, the cigar box with it’s

contents, and we were off down the road headed for the schoolhouse.

 

The first day of school was exciting.  It was a new beginning.  The doors

of knowledge had been opened and we anticipated great learning

adventures.  The school had lots of books and no wonder that a

little girl might be disappointed that she “didn’t learn to read today”. 

 

The first day of school is a milestone or a significant event in our lives

that most of us remember.   It’s  a big step for a small child toward

leaving babyhood behind and so “there isn’t enough time to play”. 

 

We might simply remember that first day of school because of a new

tablet of paper, a pair of new shoes, or our picture being taken

 by our parents to commemorate the day. 

 

All too soon small children grow up and get to go “to sool”, and although

 there might be disappointment on that first day because “I didn’t learn

 to read today”, they do eventually learn to read.

 

It does seem that Ben is right about one thing though…no matter

how old we get, nor how much we learn, it still seems

like “The work is too long…and there’s not enough time to play.”

 

By

Pamela Perry Blaine

© October 2005