Friday, September 2, 2011

Of Smiles and Tears, and Wipes

As we once again reach the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, I'm reliving my take on the start of kindergarten. Originally published on September 9, 2009, when the our lives as school people began.

Amongst the K-3 crowd, the kindergarten parents were easy to spot. Seasoned parents talked to one another on the playground, a reunion for those who had been away for the summer, happy to be back amongst friends and free days. Kindergarten parents huddled. We had cameras, and video cameras, long faces, happy faces and nervous children.

"Josh! Josh! Over here son, look at Daddy, Josh!", yelled Josh's father, running around in his three piece suit, chasing a son who had not strayed from his mother's hand. Not surprisingly, Josh lined up with Mary and Kate for the march into kindergarten, led by their new teacher, Miss Park. There was no goodbye, we assumed we would march in with them, the school did not, and so it was, off they went and there we stood, on the empty playground with the other dazed parents. Jack stayed strong, I immediately crumbled, but out of the view of my newly cast kindergartners. One kind woman stopped, hugged me, and promised they would take very good care of my girls.

We spent the next two hours at a coffee shop where I read not only the Tribune but also the Times. Over two pots of black tea I spontaneously cried at every inopportune moment, but always when the kind waitress appeared; we can only imagine what tragedy she assumed was at the root of my blubbering. Or perhaps, like the nice woman at the book store who wrapped my two "Happy First Day!" surprises, she knew that it was the first day of school and the puffy eyes and red face were the telltale signs of an unstable mother not yet ready to let go.

Thirty minutes before the final bell, I was ready to be back on the playground. Jack insisted on playing this cool. At five minutes he was casually doing a drive by, looking for a parking space where he wouldn't get a ticket. Seriously, we are worried about a ticket? Our children are set to be released from the confines of their first day at grammar school and you are concerned about a parking ticket? When the bell rang we were there, outside the door. The morning bell set off the tears, the afternoon bell made me giddy. And the door opened, Miss Park was one of the first teachers out, and right behind her, two little girls who were excited and exhausted and thrilled to have spent a very wonderful first day in kindergarten.

Kate made a new friend, as did Mary, although Mary had no idea what her new friend's name was. The girls sat together, they sat apart, they read books, sang songs, and found the bathroom without incident. The only problem came at lunch. Packed into their lunch box was a hand wipe, to be used before eating. Kate could not find her wipe, and she would not eat until she did. With only 20 minutes for lunch, the bulk of her time was spent wipe hunting, finally resorting to using Mary's discarded grapefruit scented towelette. She had only made it through half a banana and a small wheel of cheese when the bell rang, leaving edamame, blueberries and a hard cooked egg untouched. This did not sit well; Miss Park told me the scream was so loud and piercing that she thought certainly Kate's small hand had been smashed in between two tables.

This morning the wipe was placed directly on top of the lunch box, in the middle, impossible to miss. The camera was left behind, and Jack went back to work. Mary and Kate love kindergarten, and so do I. Today.


Mary said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing Ally.

Rob Marvin MD said...

Absolutely fantastic retelling, Ally; I could "see" and "hear" you in every sentence.

Time must have permanently altered lunch as I once knew it.

Whatever happened to peanut butter and jelly, potato chips, and a sliced (browned) apple?


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