Twenty-nine years ago, it was a bad day. A terrible day. A day that will live in infamy.
It was my first day of school. Ever.
And I was determined to make it my last. Ever.
I kicked and screamed and wailed up and down my parents' hallway. I cried in the car, and I cried through the Baker Elementary hallways. I'm fairly sure I cried for the entire day. Now, I am a crier by nature, but I am completely sure that I have, since that morning, never reached the decibel level and tear frequency that I worked myself up to that day. I can remember every detail of what my mother wore that day, even down to her flip-flops and red headscarf, because I was absolutely certain I'd never... see... her... again. Never. I can remember her walking me to my classroom, giving me a hug, and then abruptly turning to walk away. Growing up, I thought this was indicative of the relationship we would have: me falling apart and her turning away in frustration. It is only now that I can tell you with certainty that it was me falling apart and her turning away because it killed her to see me so upset. It was the only way to prevent herself from picking me up, walking out, and never forcing me to go back. This, I realize now, is the truth of our relationship. I sometimes wonder where I'd be now had she not made that about-face so many times in my life. Nowhere good, I am sure.
Even now, I cannot tell you my kindergarten teacher's name or the names of any of my classmates. Nor could I tell you, specifically, any activity I participated in that day or any other day of my kindergarten year. That's how traumatic it was. I have completely blocked it from my 5 year-old memory.
But I survived it, and strangely enough, I even fell in love with the act of going to school -- even that dreaded first day. The new clothes, the school supply shopping (oh, how I love new school supplies!), and the feeling of a brand new start. Sure, I suffered through the awkwardness and struggle to fit in, just like everyone else, but for me, school was a place where I felt confident and successful. And I was blessed -- blessed, I tell you -- to have wonderful, thoughtful teachers who made that confidence and success happen for me. I can only surmise that this is the reason I chose to become a teacher and why it is so important to do a good job every day. It is to honor all of them.
And to honor the sacrifice of that woman in the red headscarf, hurrying out the school doors, drying her eyes, and counting down the minutes until noon.
So now, as I lay in bed, readying myself for my 30th First Day of School, I pray that it will go smoothly for both me and my new students (and their moms). And that the trauma will be kept to a minimum for all.