For many, today is the first day of school – our college’s welcome back this week and next; my son’s first day of second-year med school; area public schools turning on the buses and gathering up children huddled in this cool rain. It’s a ritual that brings back wonderful memories as my children picked out their back-to-school outfits, stopped to smile at the camera, and wrestled on their backpacks loaded with the prerequisite supplies … tissues, glue sticks, pencils, notebooks. It’s a fresh beginning, filled with resolves to stay on track, stay organized, turn in all homework on time this year, smile and be friendly (that’s for those who are on the other side of the desks). It’s kind of like the New Year, but better because those who are fortunate enough get to shop for brand new pencils, rollerball pens, clean spiral bound notebooks, maybe even a new backpack. Logistics are worked out: Where are my classes, did I get all my classes, when do I get to eat lunch? These are the usual stresses that signal that today is special, standout, and not even a drizzle or a drench pouring down on the newcomers moving into the Patrick Henry can drown the mood.
Although that mood can experience its valleys. Said son can’t locate an immunology textbook. Students are wet over on Jefferson Street as they cart boxes, bags and books into their new abode. Sooner or later, the Roanoke Times will print a story about some kindergartener left at the wrong bus stop. Bound to be tears – mom forgot to give me ice cream money, my shoes won’t stay tied, and the cute boy didn’t even look in my direction in the gym. Those, however, are negligible in the grand scheme of First Days of School. I ran into my children’s bus driver a while back, and reminded her that my daughter was so fired up about her first day of kindergarten that she forgot to pause on the bus steps so I could snap a picture. The bus driver had to ask her to turn around and smile at the camera. Now that’s enthusiasm.