We moved into our current house about a month before Maggie’s first day of kindergarten.
Kindergarten starts here a couple of days after the older kids start school. The teachers have two days of meetings with the kids and parents. Except for that first year, Kim helped organize those orientation days – but that’s another story.
Maggie and I walked up to the school to meet with her teacher: Mrs. Rimedio. The children sat together in one group and the parents sat together off to the side. The first person that Maggie met on this first day was Alex Thompson. Mrs. Rimedio explained the school day routine to the kids and then walked them around the room showing them where the various activities were located. She then set them to work on a quick project and talked to the parents.
I tried to listen but I kept looking back over at Maggie. She looked so grown up and independent. I laugh now – but then, just shy of her fifth birthday she looked so old. Mrs. Rimedio walked us out to the door where the kids would line up each morning and told them exactly where and how they should line up. She said goodbye and gave each child a soft high-five on their way by. She introduced the routine that would comfort them the rest of the year.
Maggie bounced all the way home. She tried to pretend it was old hat. After all, she’d been to preschool for three years. But she was excited. She liked her teacher. She liked her classroom and she was ready for her new school.
A new school. She would be in Boulevard for the next five years.
The first day of school we took Maggie’s picture on the front porch. Elena was pretty used to much of her life being devoted to Maggie’s firsts. I’ll have to look back – I don’t remember if we took Elena’s picture too. But we all walked up to school for Maggie’s first day.
Maggie couldn’t stand it. We’d come so early and she wasn’t first in line. Tomorrow we would come earlier.
All this came rushing back this week on Maggie’s first day at another new school. All of the fifth graders leave the comfort of their elementary schools and join up at Woodbury. Last week Kim took Maggie for a scavenger hunt. Maggie met Mrs. Drosdek, her homeroom teacher and joined other fifth graders in a search around the school that helped orient them to where everything was. I get lost in Woodbury all the time, but Maggie and the other nine, ten, and eleven year olds don’t seem to have a problem.
First day of school. “What time does she have to be there?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Kim said. “She’s marked tardy at 8:40.”
“O.K., she’s late at 8:40, but when do they want her there?” I asked.
Kim gave me the didn’t-I-just-say-I-don’t-know look. You know the one.
At 8:15 Maggie stood outside for her first day of school picture. It was the first jarring moment for me. Kim and I were trying to keep this day all about Maggie. Maggie had stood alone for her picture in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Even in third grade, Elena’s first day was two day’s after Maggie’s because Kindergarten starts later. The only year they shared a first day of school was last year. We’d assumed we’d be taking their picture together til Maggie graduated high school and then Elena would have a couple of years to herself.
We were wrong.
We finished the pictures and headed off to Woodbury. Maggie bounced as much as her overweight bookbag would allow. She had that excitement – that wealth of possibilities – that freshness. It was like opening a new box of crayons. So much promise.
We crossed the street and found the line and stood with Maggie while we waited for her group to go inside. Maggie didn’t see anyone she knew in her own class. It didn’t look like anyone from Boulevard was in there with her. They’d told her that she’d have at least one person she knew in her class. She shrugged.
And then someone tapped her on the shoulder.
It was Alex. Maggie would be starting her new school with the same girl she’d started her last school with. She and Alex were together again.
Maggie smiled. She would have been ok, but you could feel the shift in comfort level. We watched her walk into her new school with her new class. Not yet ten years old looking so grown up and independent.