first day jitters
first day jitters
The first day of school.
I used to both love and fear that day. I have always had a love affair with autumn; the crisp weather, teh changing leaves, the new notebooks and sharpened pencils and an array of new clothes hanging in my closet.
I remember what I wore the first day of kindergarten, in 1967. It was a dress, brown and orange plaid on the bottom, plain brown up top with two buttons going down. My hair was short, and I wore a circular tag around my neck that had my name printed on it. I had on thin brown socks and a pair of MaryJanes, and my mother took my picture on the front steps of the school.
On the first day of high school (9th grade, 1976), I wore brown Levi corduroys, Earth shoes and a brown and orange button down silk Huckapoo shirt. No one took a picture of me, I wore no name tag, and I was more afraid of school that day than I was as a five year old. Nine years of public school torture can sure turn you around like that.
But this isn't about me. It's about Natalie and DJ and that restless, excited feeling they had last night as they tried to sleep, and the differences in them as they approach school.
DJ checks his backpack every few minutes, making sure his name is on all his supplies, that I didn't forget anything off the list, that all twelve of his number two pencils are sharpened. He asks me four times to check the list we received from his teacher. Do we have everything? Am I sure I have the right room number? He makes me check the school calendar to find out when the standardized tests take place this year. He can't concentrate on the Yankee game, even though they are playing Boston. His mind is too busy racing with the the possibilities of everything that could go wrong.
Natalie is busy putting patches on her backpack. She checks her outfit twice, changes her mind and pulls out a different shirt. She agonizes over which shoes to wear. She organizes her morning stuff; make-up, brush, hair accessories, jewelry. She is yapping on the phone as she does this, a conversation based around which boys will be in their classes and what posters they will hang in their lockers and when the first dance is. She finishes her preparations, forgetting to put a notebook and pen in her backpack, and watches American Idol with such intense concentration that you would never know she is starting 7th grade in the morning.
And what about mom and step-dad? We sit in the living room, pondering the school year. Will DJ finally come out of his shell and make friends this year? Will his teacher challenge him more than his third grade teacher did? Will Natalie ever be organized enough to not forget something each day? Will she find seventh grade to be academically challenging or will she be so concerned with boys and makeup an dances that she will fail everything? We talk about what we were doing as seventh graders. We figure out ways to keep her away from drugs and cigarettes and alcohol and boys. A convent comes to mind. Military school, perhaps. We worry that DJ is too intense, too anal, too hard on himself. We imagine that he is laying in bed, tossing and turning and fretting over imagined hardships of fourth grade.
Two minutes later, we hear a "Whoohoo!" come from DJ's room as Robin Ventura hits his 26th homer. We relax a bit, knowing that DJ has relaxed enough to enjoy the game.
Meanwhile, Natalie is frantically dialing the American Idol hotline, trying to get her vote in. I go in the room and remind her that she has to get up early in the morning. A look of fear briefly crosses her face. "Mom," she says, "I'm nervous and excited at the same time." I understand completely, because you never forget that anticipation of the first day of school.
Two minutes later, she is sound asleep, snoring even. I check on DJ and he too is sleeping like a baby, as they say, smiling in his sleep. He's probably replaying Ventura's home run in his dream.
Meanwhile, I spend the night tossing and turning and dreaming about spelling tests and surprise quizzes and lost bus passes and ugly brown corduroys that I once thought were cool. Let the kids sleep soundly, I will do all their worrying for them.