Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to school: First days

Thursday (well, now today) is the first day of school in Bermtopia.

And I, in a retrospective mood having just finished a grueling, but entertaining (or so I think) 28-page history of one of the colleges I work for, am so brain-fried that I can't really look forward. So I look back. At random first days of school involving the Number 1 and 2 Sons.

Warning: Tears were shed in the making of these experiences.

I was basically a pretty sappy kind of mom when it came to the first day of school. Within reason, that is. Just through 1st and 2nd grade or so. (Well, with one or two notable exceptions.) After that, I went to ground for a while, only to surface in full maternal glory for the boys' freshman year in college.

The early years

Neither boy started at Wilson Elementary. The N1S did kindergarten at Taft Elementary in Santa Ana, Calif., finishing first grade there before we relocated to Bermtopia.

I remember The N1S' first day as a second grader at Wilson, though. I packed an extra snack bag of M & Ms (or some similar confection) and attached a note: "Share this with the kid sitting next to you." He did. That's how he made his first friend at a new school.

Did I not rule as a mom? Or was I totally living in Dweebdom? Who knows? Who cares? The boy made a friend. And he thanked me in a speech he gave at 6th grade graduation. I cried.

The N2S went to kindergarten at the Bermtopia YMCA where I worked at the time. It rocked. His kindergarten teacher, Ms. Joyce, taught math concepts during wrestling matches. You kinda had to be there, but it worked for The N2S.

That's The N2S (in that first picture you see at the beginning of this post) on his first day of first grade at Wilson. Adorable, isn't he? looking quite sartorial in a pair of The N2S' cast-off soccer shorts and one of his T-shirts to boot. He was feeling pretty chipper as we took pictures, but by the time we hit the classroom, the enormity of being in a strange school hit The N2S like a box of rocks. Visualize "Dead Man Walking" and you've got the picture.

I cried that morning, missing the comfort of his kindergarten classroom almost as much as he did.

Fast forward to the end of the day: At the time, we were in the process of moving into The 9-1-4, about 3 blocks away from Wilson. As The N2S and I walked home, we encountered a mom sitting on her lawn handing out popsicles to her three sons as they trickled home after their first day of school.

"Hey. Would you like one?" she asked, thrusting an icy treat toward The N2S. He accepted cautiously, looking over his cherry popsicle and eyeballing a little guy about his size. "Francis" was one of the kids in his new classroom. The N2S hunkered down next to him and they silently devoured their treats.

They're still best of friends today.

Middle school years

I totally and unequivocably dweebed out with The N1S his first year of middle school -- middle school being the seemingly scariest place on earth that you could send an innocent 12-year-old.

Is it too late to apologize? Probably.

We rode the city bus together to make sure The N1S knew the route. We walked the halls of Sacajawea Middle School, found all his classrooms and made sure his locker combination worked. (The Bermtopia school district later established middle school bus service so kids didn't have to take the city bus. Probably at the frantic behest of painfully embarrassed 12-year-old boys all over the city.)

The N2S dodged the Mom Bullet. He and a posse of his friends visited Sac a couple of days before school started and figured out all that stuff on their own. I'm pretty sure I drove them there, though. And gave them snacks afterward.

High school years

I behaved myself for the most part. Although I did sneak a bag of The N2S' favorite treats -- along with an adorable stuffed tiger (the high school mascot) into his locker as a first-day surprise freshman year. He found them about six months later -- the first time he used the locker. The tiger was still in pretty good shape. The snacks? Not so much.

College years

Taking your kids to college their freshman year is the emotional equivalent of Omaha Beach. If the first bullet misses you, another will find you further up the beach.

We had successfully gotten The N1S settled at his college of choice. Our farewells were moderately tearful, but full of laughter too. We were all very proud of ourselves for being so brave.

I was picking up a few supplies at the local Safeway later that evening, when the opening notes of the James Ingram/Linda Ronstadt cover of "Somewhere Out There" from the film "American Tail" wafted across the store.

Um. Can you say, Clean up on Aisle 4?

P.S. Apologies to my two fine, upstanding young men who I love more than life itself for posting these pictures. But. Too bad for you.

P.P.S. I don't want to leave you with the impression that saying good-bye to The N2S on the eve of college was a cake walk. We were just a shade distracted by all the road construction signs he and his roommates had, well, for lack of better word, stolen throughout the summer and now had hanging on their walls. Caution. Curves ahead.

P.P.S. All you parents out there, reading this? I double dog dare you to listen to "Somewhere Out There."

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