Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's that time again!

It's almost time for school to begin. We are still scrambling to make those final purchases, new shoes, new socks, backpacks and clothes. The kids are trying to squeeze that last bit of fun out of those precious few days they have left. I am trying to squeeze out that last bit of manual labor from them while they are still in my control.

I wonder if they experience those bittersweet feelings that I remember having at the start of the new school year. Sadness about summer being over, no more lazy mornings, no more leisurely days with your friends as you found ways to escape the sweltering heat. No more days of breaking out the slip and slide or going to a friends house and swimming in their pool for 6 hours straight. The excitement of which one of your new, cute outfits will be honored with being chosen for the first day of school. Is your new teacher going to be amazing or will it be one that will make your life a living hell? Hopes that there will be some new students that will become new friends or new crushes for you and all your friends.

I went to Catholic elementary school so those first days of school were a little rough. It was still hot in those early weeks of September and you were forced into the stiff, scratchy, starched white shirt. But, of course, that was not bad enough because the plaid, wool jumper was pulled over the suffocating white shirt. It was torture trying to sit still in class with no air conditioning in those uniforms. To add insult to injury, we walked home in the afternoon heat with our knee high socks pulled all the way up. We couldn't rip that uniform off fast enough when we got home and jumped back into our summer shorts and tanks.

School for me was like being home, in a way. All my friends were there, even the ones that lived on my street. I grew up with these kids from 3rd grade to 8th grade. They were with me when I was the new kid who got yanked back into her desk by her pony tail by a very angry nun. They were with me when the priest yelled at me until I cried at my first confession because I forgot the words to the "Act of Contrition". They watched in horror as I choked on a piece of candy and the only remedy the nun could offer me was a drink at the fountain, which did me no good. She walked me in circles in a state of panic, I guess she was unfamiliar with the Heimlich maneuver. They were my constant companions when my parents divorced. We were there for each other as two of our schoolmates went missing and were eventually discovered murdered by the Hillside Stranglers. They were all my family. Many of us still keep in touch even after being apart for 30 years.

I was heartbroken when my dad pulled me out of school just as we started 8th grade. I begged and pleaded with him to leave me in school to no avail. I was so lonely and I felt so isolated without my friends. I never got to graduate the eighth grade with them or finish my confirmation with them. I missed that very special time that my friends were so fortunate to share with each other.

I never again experienced that sense of connection that I had with these people. High school was not the best experience for me because I knew so few of these people so that feeling of isolation continued until graduation. I don't keep in touch with people from high school. I did, however, go to my 10 year high school reunion. Once I was there I realized that I didn't know any of these people, not really. I never went to another high school reunion again.

Hopefully my kids can experience that sense of connection with their peers the same way I did in elementary school. You spend so much time with your friends at school, you have shared experiences that connect you, sometimes, for life. Those people sometimes make the best lifetimes friends, because they know, better than anyone can, who you really are.

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