Anyone remember the song from which I stole the title of this post? Seemed fitting for these musings from my mom on “back to school” (parenthetical comments by yours truly). Read on!

First day of School? Who cares?

For me in Stamford, Connecticut it was the day after Labor Day. School ran from then until a few weeks after Memorial Day, then two months of nothing-to-do vacation. Then it came again, the big day, the first day of school.

This is a monumental day and is preceded by days of preparation. When I was young we went to Miller’s Lilliputian shop to get new clothes and new shoes. What you wore that day seems so important. (I waste precious space in my brain remembering exactly what I wore on many monumental occasions like first days of school…why?) It was a fresh start. It was seeing who was in your class, who wasn’t what teacher you got, was the teacher nice. It meant everything. It was probably usually a disappointment. But it was SO SPECIAL! The school calendar was the real calendar. It consisted of 10 months of school in the middle of which was Christmas and New Year’s Day, and two months of no school. And it all began with THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

When I finally (after nine years of it) finished college, I realized that the first day of school no longer mattered to me. It felt strange not to have that delineator, that way to see the year, be relevant. I entertained the thought of becoming a teacher to keep up that schedule but didn’t care enough about the idea to do it. I just lived with the calendar calendar, from January through December, until darling daughter Laura was five. Then, to my delight, it started again. Only this time it was even better. I don’t think we bought so many school clothes (somehow that job seemed to fall to my dad. We often went on clothes shopping sprees to J. C. Penney at his urging.), but the list of supplies each year was awesome! And way too expensive to my mind. Schools asked for pencils and paper, that was okay. But paper towels? Hand sanitizer? Tissues? There seemed to be so much that was supplied by the parents. Made one realize the dire straits the schools were in. And ask me about graph paper. And new binders. Every year. (Except for the years where you convinced me to stop doodling on them, after which I used the same binders until I graduated from college. So there.)

Laura has finished school and moved away and the first day of school probably doesn’t mean so much to her any more now. But now I have a first day of school all for myself as I am back in college. I remember now (today, August 22 being my first day of school) the nervousness that comes along with the excitement. And today I had good reason to be nervous when what I thought was going to beginning printmaking turned out to be the advanced class. I was in the wrong class! This hadn’t happened to me since I was 5! (That year, the teacher sent me into the bathroom to help a child who had a nose bleed. Imaging sending a five year old to help a five year old! Did I already seem that much older than my years? When we came out, she told me I was in the wrong class and sent me where I was supposed to be. That and tasting raw pumpkin are my only memories of kindergarten.) It turns out that I was supposed to be registered for the advanced class so that I can get graduate credit. But the professor had told me to attend the beginning class and I had forgotten, in the delight of thinking that I had no evening classes. Turns out I have two evening classes a week. Darn.

So the first day of school does matter to me now, but only the first day of the school that I go to. I remain pretty ignorant of everyone else’s school schedule. This year I first heard on August 14th that school would start on the 15th. Suddenly I was well-informed. But, due to a windstorm that had knocked down trees and caused power outages on the 12th, THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL WAS CANCELLED! As was the second day. The most important day of the year: postponed. I heard a teacher say, “We’ve already had two snow days and we haven’t even started yet.” That’s a funny way to start the year.

And I have a big announcement. Today, coinciding nicely with this post, I am starting my new job! So despite not being in college anymore, I’m feeling those first-day-of-school, what-to-wear jitters. I hope I chose my outfit well, because I’m probably wearing it and being oriented RIGHT NOW, AS YOU READ. Though my calendar will be different, today sure feels like the first day of school.

Thanks to my mom, Deborah, for this guest post, and for all the thoughts and memories it inspired. What are your most vivid memories of the first day of school? How does your calendar relate to the school year?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman