Which first day are you curious about? I attended five grade schools, two high schools, and too many colleges and universities to count. So there was always a first day. And they were always filled with butterflies.
Kindergarten: Everyone else there was also experiencing a first day. And while it might have been traumatic at the time, what I remember most is that we napped on little blankets and had cookies and milk. What I remember about First Grade is the teacher, Mrs. Carey, who welcomed us that September with an overwhelming smile. She kept the butterflies at bay. The following June my family provided cupcakes for my birthday, which happened to fall on the last day of the school year. I still have a photo of the entire class standing under an elm tree on the playground. We are all smiling. Perhaps it’s because we all were promoted.
Three schools later, I arrived at St. Louis Cathedral School in March of sixth grade. By then, almost everyone had chosen a best friend. But Carol latched onto me, guided me through the first few days, and has been my closest friend ever since. We’ve known each other fifty-six years, and she is still the sister I never had.
We graduated from grade school; and after freshman year at Rosati Kane High School in St. Louis, I moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. It was 1958, and Governor Orville Faubus stood in the doorway of Central High School and refused to allow nine Negro students to enter the building. It was the year of desegregation and federal Marshalls and angry riots. It was not about smiling.
So what do I really know about the first day of school? It is this: No matter where geography puts you, people are the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s Boise, Idaho (where I was born) or Baltimore, Maryland. It’s true the newcomer must make the greater effort; but it is well rewarded in the long run.
I live in Benton Harbor, Michigan, now; and I’m thinking of returning to school. I’ll brush up on my smile for that next first day and look forward to meeting strangers who could turn into my next good friends.