Thursday, August 26, 2010

First-day-of-school salute

It fell on me to wake the two cherubs for the first day of school Monday, Aug. 23. Jackson, 6, and Grant, 4, were snug in their beds and not interested. I tried the gentle tap first. Then, the blanket removal. Finally, the ultimate trick that fools every kid: “Jackson, Grant, wake up! It’s Christmas!”

With his eyes still closed, Jackson said, “No, it isn’t.”

“It’s better than Christmas,” I said. “It’s —”

“It’s worse,” Jackson said.

“I think it’s better,” said Grant, who was trying to be brave on his first day of voluntary pre-kindergarten.

After breakfast, my wife, Hailey, spritzed the boys’ heads with a spray bottle to corral the cowlicks before the boys swung their enormous Lightning McQueen packs on their backs.

On the ride to Grant’s VPK class at Indian Trails Middle School, I thought back to my first day of kindergarten. I was so nervous that while I was riding the bus to school, I made a plan to bawl in my mother’s arms as soon as I got home and convince her not to ever send me again.

To prevent that kind of crisis for Grant, I role-played with him the day before, walking him into the kitchen and pretending to drop him off at school, reassuring him that his mom would be back later to pick him up.

When we entered his Indian Trails classroom, he hung up his backpack and said hello to his new teachers. I stepped back into the hallway and waved goodbye. His face went pale, his bottom lip starting to tremble. I hesitated and waved again, then walked down the hallway. Again, I turned back, watching the shaft of light from his classroom, half expecting him to come running out for one last hug. Part of me wished he would.

I worried about Grant all day. I was planning to go home for lunch, but a meeting went long. I was planning to come home just before dinner, but another meeting kept me away. When I finally saw him just before 8 p.m., I asked how it went.

He grinned and saluted me, his hand on his forehead. “You know what that means?” he asked. “It means, ‘Good.’”

The first day of school wasn’t so traumatic after all. But I doubt I would have made it without those rehearsals in the kitchen.

This column first appeared in The Palm Coast Observer.

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