Today is the first day of school for my three high schoolers. The beginning of school is always one of my favorite times of the year, and today I am waxing nostalgic. In Bountiful Utah, where we used to live, back to school meant apple crisp, sweaters and colorful leaves. I would always walk to school with the kids and invariably there was a noticeable change in the air. Somehow, like magic, the heavens had our first day of school marked on the giant universal calendar and kindly gifted us with the undeniable hint of fall's arrival.
Once at school, all the kids would gather outside for an opening flag ceremony. There was a tangible mix of anxiety and excitement as the kids waited in lines sporting brand new clothes, shiny new shoes and trendy backpacks. The teachers were fresh and cheerful, the kids obedient. Inside the school, the classrooms were armed with newly sharpened pencil bouquets and scrubbed desks with the lingering odor of disinfectant.
It was tradition that on the second day back to school, the mothers in my area would gather at the park for a potluck brunch. A celebration of having survived another summer. A commemoration of a fresh new start. Our hopes were high that this would be the year our kids would catch the spark of learning and dowse the flames of video games. Gorging ourselves on watermelon and coffee cake, we reconnected, relishing in the small reprieve from childcare, and collectively recommitting ourselves to being an active participant at the school and in our children's lives.
I remember fondly the first day of one particular school year. Stockton and Landon were starting the 3rd grade. Excitement had been building in the weeks prior. On the eve of the first day, S&L had packed and re-packed their backpacks, organizing them just right. They laid out their new clothes and kept asking if it was time for bed yet. The next day, I anxiously awaited their arrival home. Watching out our large picture window, I finally caught a glimpse of their bobbing backpacks coming down the street. As they got closer, I immediately sensed a problem. What was it? How could they leave so bubbly and return like a deflated balloon. Landon sauntered into the house, plopped down dejectedly on the couch and removed his backpack.
"Well.....? How was it?" I urgently wanted to know. "How did your day go?"
Landon looked up at me like I had just taken away his new puppy and mournfully replied, "Here is how our day went: rules, rules, rules, recess. Rules, rules, rules, lunch. Rules, rules, rules, home."
But like the amnesia of childbirth, those first monotonous days of obligatory protocol disbursement are forgotten each year as anticipation mounts for the return to routines and organized learning. This year was no exception. And just like when my kids were younger, I can hardly wait for them to get home and report.