I raised three of my children in a remote town in north Idaho, where I sit now typing this blog post. I am looking across the bay at the town and my little old house nestled on the side of the mountain. It's a cool and cloudy morning, with a tinge of fall in the air. The summer tourists are gone, the plums are ripe, the pears are falling from the trees and the bears are raiding gardens in preparation for the winter.
And school started yesterday.
The first day of school here was always a momentous occasion. The handful of young mothers tossed their children on the school bus, waved a quick goodbye and raced back to their kitchens to gather up the food for our annual Champagne Brunch.
In other words, we celebrated. We had a tattered red hand towel printed with the words "Crying Towel" that we passed to the mother whose youngest child entered school. We cheered, raised our glasses to celebrate her freedom and ate quiche and huckleberry coffee cake.
Fast forward to 1987, when my family and I had moved to Rhode Island. I had no friends yet. Instead of partying on the mountain, I now had a job as a secretary to a tax accountant. It was the first day of school and my first day on the job. There was, unfortunately, no champagne.
My boss filled me in on my duties and said, "You'll meet Karen, the bookkeeper, eventually, but she's going to be late. It's the first day of school and she has to follow the school bus."
I couldn't imagine why anyone would need to follow the school bus, but I kept my mouth shut.
"She'll be crying," he continued.
He gave me an odd look. "Because it's the first day of school."
I couldn't help blurting, "Why would anyone cry on the first day of school?"
He stared at me for a long moment.
"You're going to be good for her," he finally declared, chuckling as he returned to his office. Sure enough, about half an hour later, in came Karen. She was sniffling and red-eyed and definitely pathetic. We made coffee. She told me she followed the bus to make sure it arrived safely and delivered her two children to kindergarten and second grade. I told her about champagne brunches.
We've been friends ever since. For many years, long after we'd left our jobs with the cheerful tax accountant, we met for coffee on the first day of school.
And now, even without coffee, we touch base via email and texts. This morning she sent me a photo of her granddaughter's first day of school. Karen also told me she had discovered how not to cry: skip the whole school bus scenario and take the child to school herself.
I think next year I'll have a First Day of School brunch again. All of those young mothers are now retired. Those children with the new lunch boxes are all grown up. We all have grandchildren. But the grandmothers should drink champagne and eat huckleberry cake anyway, don't you think?
What do you remember about the first day of school? Do you celebrate or cry? And what traditions do you keep?
|First day of school for the Rolofson children, 1985, right before their mother pops the corks.|