The first day of kindergarten is a momentous day for both child and parent. The weeks and days leading up to the first day of school have been filled with anticipation and excitement. Visits to the school, meetings with teachers, introductions to the principal, shopping for a new outfit, learning bus riding procedures, and packing, unpacking and re-packing of the mandatory accessory — the backpack.
The day before the first day of school, a few parents of the soon-to-be- kindergarteners organized a pizza picnic. After catching up on summer adventures, one of the excited moms asked me, “Are you going to go to school in the morning and take pictures?” Puzzled I replied, “I had not thought about it. Carly is taking the bus. I am going to the bus-stop and planned on taking a few snapshots there.” Politely, but firmly, she told me that there is only one first day of kindergarten.
The first day arrived, early. Carly awoke at 0230 with unbridled enthusiasm She skipped down the hall into our bedroom and energetically asked, “How much longer until I need to wake up to take the bus to school?” Groggy but with a slight smile, my husband chuckled and escorted Carly back to her room for a few more hours of sleep.
Despite the first day of school being “red day,” Carly picked out a vibrant, retro-inspired all-over floral print dress with bell sleeves. Carly awoke to her 0630 reveille call, jumped out of her top bunk and dressed quickly. She brushed her hair and declared, “I am going to wear a red hand band. My backpack is also red so I will have on two red things. That counts, so let’s go!” She did not want to miss the bus.
Following a yogurt and blueberry breakfast that was the fastest she has ever eaten, she brushed her teeth and stated emphatically, “I am ready, let’s go.”
We went outside to take a few pictures — only three she insisted — with Col. Thayer, our dog. Carly again declared, “Let’s go. I do not want to miss the bus and we are supposed to be in the bus line five minutes before the bus arrives.” We drove to the long steep curvy mile to the bus stop and, as expected, arrived first.
Carly quickly got out of the car and crossed the street to where she had seen our next door neighbor get on the bus several times. As I started to remind her of school bus etiquette she said, “Mom, I know. Sit down, talk softly, don’t put anything including my hands out the window, and introduce myself. And no eating and drinking.” And than with a smile she said, “And mom, no more pictures, please.”
Within two minutes a dozen or so grade school children with their oversized backpacks showed up and darted for the arriving yellow bus. Carly joined the gaggle, entered the yellow door, climbed the metal stairs and never looked back. The children sat. The driver waved and closed the door. The bus departed.
In an instant is was over — way too quickly. Than I heard the echo of the other mom’s words from yesterday — go to school and meet the bus.
I was the second parent to arrive. She was the first. As I got out of my car she smiled and said, “I glad you came.” Sheepishly, I replied, “I heard the echo of your words from yesterday. Guilt kicked in.” She laughed and responded, “I’m glad. You only get once chance.”
We walked together to the unloading point behind the flag pole and waited for the arrival of bus number 15. It was the fourth to arrive. I waited and watched Carly say goodbye to the bus driver and disembark. I snapped the shutter. It is only once that you get off the school bus your first day. Than she saw me, posed for another photo, and exclaimed, “You’re here! I didn’t think you would come, but am I glad you did.” We walked together to the Hawks Nest where all the new kindergarteners and the big kids looked for their teachers.
The three kindergarten teachers stood in front of the playground fence. Each holding a yardstick with a hand-written name placard. We saw it at the same time, “Ms. Winters Class.” Carly ran over and gave Ms. Winter a hug. Parents gathered, snapped photos, smiled and shed tears.
There were no nerves on my part or Carly’s, just pure excitement and pride. This was the official start of my daughter’s formal education journey. Today is a day on which I hope she will develop a life-long passion and love of learning. I am glad I went. There is only one first day of kindergarten.