The room is loud as we go in: bright, tight parent voices, a faucet running, a brief wail. The entry way is a maze of bodies and backpacks. We wait as other kids find their, as yet unfamiliar, cubbies and parents crouch beside them, phones out to take iconic first-day of school pictures.
I fumble in my canvas bag for my camera, squeeze the plastic tab and slide it along the nylon cord opening the camera bag. No cell phone, and my camera seems oddly out of place. It doesn’t matter, because my girl is turning her face away with a frown, her butt-length blond hair falling over her face despite the plum colored sequined headband.
“OK,” I give up on the picture. “Let’s wash hands.”
She hops up the gray wooden steps at the side of the sink, turns on the water, rubs with soap, rinses. She pushes me out of the way as I reach to hand her a paper towel.
Laurie welcomes her to the room. She points out the sand table, and even as I wonder if K will choose to play with coarse sand and brightly colored tools and cups I point out the mound of giant Legos on the next table. I see “The Kissing Hand” in the book rack behind the primary color alphabet rug, a book we’ve been reading at bedtime all week.
Teachers sway through the crowd, bending to say a welcome or offer an activity. Parents hover and hug and wonder when to leave.
I’m behind Kathleen, surveying the room over her head, as we hover between entryway and the room proper. Her hand—so soft, so small—slides into mine as we enter the room, uncertain at first, and then insistent, tugging as she sees where she wants to go. I wend through waist-high people following her lead.
Kathleen pulls a puzzle—multicolored hot air balloons—off a shelf, plops down on the low-pile rug, and dumps it out. She starts trying pieces and I try to refrain from putting my hands on them to shift them, refrain from telling her where they go. But one of my hands, large next to hers, nails short, slips the first piece into place as she starts to pull it away. Then she gets it and the rest of the picture comes together quickly.
Without a word to me, she puts the puzzle back on the shelf and pulls down another. “I guess I’ll go now. Dad will be here in a little while to pick you up. I love you.” She keeps working on her puzzle, as I hug her, her hair silky, the tulle layers on her skirt scratchy. I’m not even sure she said bye, this girl of mine who wouldn’t let me leave the house for a run or to work for two hours without a hug and a kiss.
I make my way back through the little people exploring this new place, back to the entryway where the crowd has thinned, the cubbies filled mostly with backpacks and sweatshirts. I pause for a moment, glance back, and then step out of the room, up the stairs, out into the bright September sun.
When I get back in my car, it’s quiet. Three hours to wait and wonder what happened during the rest of the first day of school.
Write with Me:
I wrote yesterday about the first day of kindergarten, but poking around in my files, I found this description of the first day of preschool. What a change for my daughter.
Did you send one of your kids off to school recently? Do you remember one of your first days in particular? Describe that experience.
Share your writing in the comments, add a link to your blog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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