In an otherwise unremarkable September morning…we set off down New Jersey Avenue to begin my very first day of school.
I can’t remember the morning of my first day of kindergarten, what I did or wore. What I do remember is sitting for what felt like hours while the other children were being picked up and brought home. I remember watching as the pews emptied — my school was housed in an old church — and feeling completely forgotten.
I was five. I didn’t understand what was going on. My brain couldn’t comprehend the fact that my younger sister was being born and that a family friend was going to take me home. I don’t remember much about that first day; I couldn’t tell you what it was like to walk into my classroom for the first time, but I remember waiting in that sanctuary while it slowly emptied and the echoes quieted.
My second first day of school wasn’t as dramatic as the first, but it had its drama nonetheless. The summer before second grade, my family moved from Massachusetts down to Virginia. Having spent a nice two peaceful years in a school where my entire grade consisted of the ten other children in my class, I was shocked by everything about the public school system. There were twenty-six other children in my second grade classroom, and five second grade classes in the school. I was in a new place with new people, so many new people, and it was overwhelming.
I rode the bus for the first time that first day of second grade. I had on a bright pink collared shirt and a pink-and-green-patterned skirt (which now, looking back, seems fitting). It was all a far cry from the tiny school my mother drove me to every day back in Salem. There was no uniform, no small classes, no echoey hallways that smelled of age. Everything was utterly foreign to me.
My next first day of school was a dramatic change yet again. This time, there was no long move across the country, or a bevy of new classmates to be introduced to. That bright September day, as my former classmates boarded the bus, my brother, two years younger than me, and I climbed the stairs from our kitchen to the bonus room above our garage. The year I started fourth grade was the year my parents made the decision to start homeschooling.
I remember sitting excitedly beside my brother in the room now fondly dubbed “The Schoolroom” for the first time. I’d been school-supply shopping because even though I was home now, the ritual brought anticipation and excitement. I sat in that schoolroom for five years until my schoolroom moved to the desk in my bedroom.