Saturday, September 24, 2005

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

I can only tell this story second-hand, because I wasn't there. I was at work. It's the curse of all parents who are also teachers that your kid's first week of school is also your first week of school, and while all this was happening I was over at my school wrangling the library class schedule and tackling passing parents so I could beg them to volunteer.

Fortunately, the Renaissance Woman and my mom are extremely reliable witnesses and also took lots of pictures (which will have to wait because they're all downloaded to RW's computer, which I am forbidden to touch because every time I use it, it mysteriously breaks).

So, the first day of school.

The Mermaid Girl was up early, ready, dressed in the new (pink) dress with matching hairband that she picked out of the Lands End catalog, toting her new (pink) backpack that matches her friend Jessie's new pink backpack*, with her initials lovingly painted in silver fabric paint by Jessie's mom. Inside the backpack were:
  • New pink lunch bag with lunch lovingly packed by me, including a little note using as few words as possible since she can't actually read yet
  • Pink and white water bottle with Hello Kitty stickers on it
  • Regulation Pocket Folder Labeled With Her Name (purple on the outside, orange on the inside)
  • Regulation Communal Classroom Supplies, including glue sticks, markers, tissues, ziplock bags, and a box of crackers (we never had to bring communal school supplies in my day. Taxes were enough! But, of course, we also didn't have ziplock bags, or glue sticks, so there you go).
She also wore the poncho that RW has been lovingly crocheting for her over the past several months out of the softest, most beautiful deep blue yarn you can imagine. RW will be the first to tell you that she's a somewhat inexperienced crochet-er, so the poncho is charmingly lopsided. Also quite big. When she wears it, Mermaid Girl resembles a cavegirl enveloped in the skins of a large blue animal, like maybe the Snuffaluffagus (isn't he blue?). But in a very sweet way.

So, the Cavegirl and RW and my mom trot down to the corner bright and early to wait for the school bus. Now, to say that MG has been eagerly anticipating riding the bus is to understate the case considerably. As far as I can make out, for MG, the yellow bus is the whole point of kindergarten: the fact that you actually go to a classroom with a teacher and other kids at the end of the ride, and, hey, maybe even learn something, is a minor detail.

The plan--that day and afterwards--is that RW will see the Girl off on the bus every morning and then will bike to work, set free at last from the tyranny of Daycare Drop-off (which I could never do instead of her, since I have to leave for work too early). Since my mom was there the first day, she would follow the bus in our car and make sure MG got to her class okay.

So the three of them stand there for a while, MG vibrating with excitement, RW and my mom taking pictures of her and each other at the bus stop. The appointed moment of 8:32 arrives, but the bus does not. 8:40 comes and goes, with no yellow bus in sight. At 8:50 or so, my mom suggests that if the bus doesn't come soon, she'll just drive MG to school.

A couple minutes later, the bus pulls up, manned by a cheery old guy, as my mom says, right out of Norman Rockwell. It was his first day, too, and he'd gotten a little lost along the route.

At this point, our girl suddenly lost it, clinging to RW and crying that she didn't want to go on the bus, she wanted Mama to take her to school, no, no, no, no bus! RW, already 20 minutes late for work, shoved her up the stairs, whereupon MG caught sight of her preschool friend Ginger sitting in the back, and zipped down the aisle without a backward look. (This precious parenting moment is captured for posterity on my mom's blog here: note the blonde blur just to the right of RW's bike helmet.)

My mom set out to follow the bus, which was more complicated than anyone had thought. Turns out, MG's school shares that bus route with another school that's further north, and the bus went to the other school first. My mom gamely followed it for a while, up and down, in and out, all the way to the other school, where it massed with all the other buses serving that school, disgorged a bunch of kids, and headed back southward.

But when the bus looked like it was about to cross a bridge and go into another part of the city entirely, my mom panicked: this wasn't the way to MG's school! Maybe she was following the wrong bus! She peeled off and headed directly to the school, hoping she hadn't missed MG.

When she got there, she saw a flock of helpful parent volunteers waiting to help the bus riders to their classroom, but no bus: none of the buses had arrived yet, even though the first bell had rung.

A couple minutes later, a big yellow bus pulled up. Aside from Bus Driver Bill at the wheel, the bus appeared to be unoccupied.

My mom panicked again--oh, no! Had MG gotten off at the wrong school?-- but this time, she wasn't alone; all the parent volunteers buzzed around, peering in the windows, muttering to each other. Where were the children? Was the bus empty? What was going on?

In the midst of all this, Bus Driver Bill pulled the lever, the door opened, and two tiny kindergarten girls-- MG and Ginger--emerged. They'd been sitting in the back seat, and it took them a while to walk all the way up to the front.

They were the only kids on the bus; everyone else went to the first school on the route.

("Did she look happy? Excited?" I asked my mom that night. "Oh, no," she said, "She had on her Worried Look. But she was fine.")

Both girls were immediately surrounded by volunteers, who whisked them off to their respective kindergarten classes.

As for the rest of the day... I think it went well. Who knows? MG is clamlike on the subject of school. She did have library the very first day. And Spanish.

And a few days later I found a first-day-of-kindergarten picture in her folder, snapped by yet another volunteer. Her teacher is beaming energetically; MG is snarling at the camera.

I think we'll save it for her wedding.

*In case you're wondering, Jessie's going to a different school. In fact, Jessie's going to the Only Public-School Language Immersion Program in the City. Long story. Short pier.


Blogger That Girl said...

Ha. MG will probably be running the class soon.

4:47 AM  
Blogger liz said...

So sweet!

1:49 PM  
Blogger Janelle said...

Ha ha! What a great blog! I would love to read more. Do you intend to add more posts? You write so well! It's fun to read. Thanks!

7:16 AM  

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