Posted by: Dennie | August 27, 2012

Today’s Topic: The First Day Of School

Today was the first day of school in my town. I hate it. Even though I’m fifty-six years old and haven’t been ” back to school”  in ages, it conjures up terrible feelings and memories for me.

I was never a great student. I got a lot of C’s, a few B’s and an occasional A, usually in phys-ed. I had a hard time focusing and studying and would have much preferred being anywhere else but in a stuffy classroom with boring teachers.

My desk was constantly moved because I talked too much.  I was always in hot water  for something. Never anything really bad, but always something. My troubles began early, in Miss Barton’s Kindergarten.  A miserable spinster,  I can’t imagine why Miss Barton even RAN a kindergarten. She wasn’t kid friendly. And she was OLD. Really old. So were her two aides.  One, the nicest of all three, was really big, and tall, and smiled a lot.   The other  was short . And quiet. She didn’t speak.  Or maybe she spoke softly. But never to me.  All were gray-haired,  dressed in  muted shirtwaists with belts that accentuated ample hips and big bosoms. Very stylish. My grandmother had better taste.

Miss Barton’s Kindergarten was in Miss Barton’s house. WHO in their right mind would run a kindergarten from their house? There’s no escape. And always the reminder of school. Miss Barton lived on the second floor,  which looked dark and scary as I peered up from the landing below. I would get scolded for standing there too long.  Children weren’t allowed, but the teachers would go upstairs sometimes–maybe to pee.  I think they  probably all lived together up there  and like witches plotted nasty things against us 5 year olds.

Miss Barton’s “classroom” was  in the dreary, sunless living room.   The two windows  looked onto a covered front porch,  and very little light shone in. Our tiny desks lined up face to face in two rows.  Keith Pennywell sat across from me. He got me in trouble one time because he said I called him “Blackie.”  But I didn’t.  I’d never even heard that expression before.

Connecting  to the living room was another room at the back of the house. There,  we colored and ate our snacks  at  long  tables that  faced  toward the front of the room. Hanging  high on the back wall was a lonesome black cat–a clock–whose vacant eyes moved back and forth in rhythm with its tail, watching our every move. He gave me the creeps.

I had two favorite parts of the day. Snack and recess. Snack was provided by Miss Barton. Two Ritz crackers and a Dixie cup of water. Yum. One day, as we finished up our  Ritz, Dean Drum, the kid who sat next to me at the long table,  funneled his napkin.  The funnel was a cool little way to get the remainder of the Ritz crumbs into Dean’s mouth, and he did so with ease and flourish. I wanted to finish my crumbs, too, so I copied Dean and did the same thing. Almost. Somehow my crumbs missed my mouth and ended up all over the floor. Old Miss Barton was there in an instant, slapping my hand and scolding me for making a mess. She warned me not to funnel the crumbs–to throw them away in the napkin, like everyone else in the class.  Dean just sat there, watching smugly, not saying a word. I didn’t get recess that day.

I wish I could say things got better, but they pretty much stayed the same for the next twelve years. Conference night was the worst. My parents would arrive home and trudge into the house with dejected looks on their faces.

“We heard the same story again tonight, young lady. Your teachers all said that you have the ability, but you just don’t apply yourself.”  I wondered why they bothered to go if they heard the same thing year after year. Conference night generally meant  I wouldn’t get TV for the next few weeks until report cards came out. And that never guaranteed anything.  Except maybe more nights of no TV.

The First Day of School always coincides with the waning days of summer. I loved summer as a kid. Still do.  Hot weather. Bright blue days. Song birds greeting me every morning, rain or shine.  And NO SCHOOL.  No schedule. Just long golden days and lazy time to fill with the pleasures of the season.

Always a sad time of year for me,  I didn’t even like The First Day of School when my kids were going to school. I think I was the only mother who dreaded them going back. All the other mothers cheerfully heralded the First Day. But I dreaded the upcoming routines, making lunches, helping with homework. It reminded me too much of my own school days. Their college years were no better as we carted them off for semesters away. I missed them terribly.

Today The First Day of School arrived,  and morning dawned with quiet grace.  Gone is the cacophony of songbirds that greeted each day in cheery chorus. The hum of the late summer insects  is the only sound that breaks the silence.

I usually get into a funk at this time of year, but eventually come out of it, accepting the fact that for now, I have no choice but to accept the fact that summer is leaving and, although it no longer affects me, school is starting. Hopefully in a few years, I too, will leave– and follow the songbirds to their winter homes.

And so I prepare myself for what I know is inevitable. The cold. The dark. The snow. And count the months until my beloved summer comes again.

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