Style Tuesday: First Day of School
September 4th 1979: I woke up early and looked around my room. I glanced at the colourful patchwork quilt on my bed and the huge red styrofoam letters spelling my name on the wall above the headboard. I had a feeling this was going to be a big day – but what was it? Ah yes! Today I was going to begin Grade One.
My mom had set out my clothes the night before. I dressed in my navy polyester pants, skinny belt, and short-sleeve light blue pin striped blouse with a white collar. I went into the bathroom and brushed my straight brown bob, brushed my teeth and headed downstairs to find the table set for breakfast.
My mom and I soon headed out the door for the 10 minute walk to school. She would walk with me the first few days and then I would walk with my neighbour who was in Grade Two for a few weeks until we were all confident that I could do it on my own.
We lined up outside the school. My mom asked the girl in front of me in line what her name was, and introduced us. I knew at that moment that we would not be friends. I was right. Funny… even at that age you know if you’ll “click” with someone.
The bell rang, I gave my mom a kiss, and we marched in two rows into the school. My teacher was Jacqueline. She had a cute bear that we took turns holding during storytime on the big rug at the front of the classroom. We were given five tokens each morning which we got to keep if we spoke exclusively in French. If we were caught speaking in English, we lost a token. Every Friday, we would get to “buy” things from the prize bucket with our tokens. This was no problem for me. I had spent a year in France from the age of two and half to three and a half. French was almost my first language. I had gone to a private school for all-day Kindergarten and we spent half the day (?) in French.
But the kids in the French immersion class spoke French with interesting English accents. And I didn’t want to be too different.The year went on and my spoken French got worse…. until my exchange to France in Grade Ten (but that’s a story for another day).
September 6th 2011: Lil D begins Grade One. He too will be in French Immersion. He went to a Montessori where he had one year of really solid core French, not French immersion. He had to be tested to get into the French Immersion program. If you didn’t read it, here’s that story.
Today he will put on the outfit we laid out for him yesterday: long navy board shorts (my choice), and a graphic navy long sleeve tee with a goalie mask on it (his choice). He will eat his breakfast, and we will take his brother to his school. We will then return home and walk the 160 m to the bus stop (I know the distance because the bus company told me exactly how far it was when I asked them to move the stop to somewhere I could see from my front window). His dad and I will watch him board the bus and we’ll wave as he drives off down the street.
And then we’ll get in the car and speed off after him. We’ll park at my aunt and uncle’s house a block from the school and we’ll rush to make sure he gets off the bus and into the right line up. We have no idea who his teacher will be, or where he needs to go. I don’t get to tell the teacher myself that he has a nut and peanut allergy – I have to trust that the school will have conveyed that information from his registration form to the teacher.
We will then watch Lil D walk bravely and blindly into his new school. He will be spoken to only in French (theoretically). He will make new friends and see old ones he knows from preschool and summer camp. Soon (as my friend Stef reminded me last night), he will be comfortable, confident and running the show again, but this morning, he is an anxious and excited boy who has no idea what to expect.
Do you remember the outfit you wore on the first day of first grade? I can pretty much remember each of my first day of school outfits. A particularly strong memory is the grey jeans with matching long grey jean vest layered over a red sweatshirt with a pharmaceutical company logo (conference giveaway billed as a present from a trip) that I wore on the first day of Grade Six.