Around here, public schools do not begin until the day after Labor Day. This is so the politicians don’t have to return to Washington until after this final summer holiday. Strangely, although it’s generally hotter than hades in Virginia, the night time temps will suddenly dip down, and it’s cool enough in the mornings that kids waiting at bus stops may need a light jacket or sweater. These same outer garments will be, naturally, left behind at the end of the school day because the temps will be back up to the speed of hell by the time school is out for the day.
There is nothing, I’m told, quite like the first day of school. As the day draws nearer, tension builds: something between anticipation and fear, excitement and nervousness. Old friends are there, new ones are next to you in classes and hallways. Sometimes, it’s even a new (or at least new to you) school. This is where the nerves come into play, but nobody has ever died from having to attend the first day of school, so it’s going to be all right. Really.
This year, my Human Bean’s eldest Grandgirl started college. That’s a very big first day! Second Grandgirl began her senior year of high school – the beginning of an ending. Both of these gals live where schools start in August, so their first days are already behind them. Middle Grandgirl starts high school after Labor Day, but not just any old high school: a special “application-only” Center for the Arts, specifically visual arts. She is excited but nervous and fearful. The good news is that she does know another girl who will attend with her, so not everyone is a stranger who is looking for a new friend. Fourth Grandgirl will be finishing up her elementary education this year, so she’s a big cheese on campus. Baby Grandgirl is in a pre-K designed for those whose birthdates disqualify them from starting public school kindergarten, and she has already begun her program.
My Human Bean heads off to the first day of the class at the university where she is a writing consultant assigned to a specific class, “Economic Issues and the Election.” The class has a full time professor teaching it, but Bean helps his students with the writing aspects, and goes into the classroom a couple of times a semester to answer questions and provide educational writing tips. She works with them by email the rest of the time. She likes this because, just as with her full time work as Coordinator and tutor for the Online Writing Center, she can still travel while she does her job for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (undergrads and graduate/professional students). But she relishes this in-person, first-day-of-class opportunity, possibly because it generally happens only twice a year.
First days are open – like door for you to walk through, an empty plate to be filled, a box waiting for the gift to be placed inside, the fresh white board or clean blackboard, awaiting their first words; this first; this particular moment in time. There will never be another first day of class, semester, or school year; the first taste of ice cream, first kiss, first date, first day on a new job, first breath of a newborn, first day of the rest of your life. Every day when you wake is a first, a moment that will never come again.
Make the most of your clean slate.