The Wide Angle: First day of school is a celebration for who again?

Published 6:37 am Saturday, September 1, 2018

I’m starting to see the pictures on Facebook coming more and more frequently these last few weeks — the first day of school.

The pictures show handsome and pretty youngsters, standing on front steps, holding up small chalkboards saying simple things like, “1st Day of First Grade,” backpacks filled with everything they will need for the upcoming school year, pencils at the ready.

I’m even starting to see college students doing it for parents anxious to see how their students are starting the next path of their life, proud of their college student’s formative milestone.

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All of them look excited, ready to see friends or make new friends.

I was not one of these students. I looked at the first day of school with a certain amount of dread and ire. It was interrupting my summer.

Impression of how I would have looked on my first day of college had I access to cellphones, complete with the scared stupid look. And seriously, how much time do kids need to take photos in a mirror? It took me far too long to only look moderately like a complete fool.

Instead of staying up later and waking up later, playing or hanging out with friends and getting into summer shenanigans, I was now forced to get up early and ruin my nights with homework.

Nevermind, those same kids I played with in the summer were also my classmates. In a community the size of mine where the class size hovered at 12, 13 and 14 students it’s not hard to fathom how often I saw them outside of school. All the time is the answer you’re looking for.

Add to that both parents were teachers. Because of their prep work, I was reminded of the coming school year far before anybody else. At night, as they slyly tried to hide the idea of the coming school year, I would walk into the kitchen and see the books, the notes, the planning lessons.

Next, the music would kick in. Oh, you know what music I’m talking about. The music in every horror movie that plays as the “victim” walks slowly into the room, heightening the sense of dread.

I would steal a glance at the notes and freeze — geography.

admittedly that was a little anti-climatic. Geography wasn’t so bad. That’s what dad taught along with physical-education. I think he might have taught social studies as well, but let’s face it, that was a long time ago and social studies is, unless you are a certain type of person, dull as dirt.

Still, I was  forced to prepare sooner than others.

Of course I also don’t remember my mom and dad taking photos of me before the first day. It’s not like they didn’t see me during the day as any trip to the principal’s office ineveitably pointed out.

Maybe they did, but it wasn’t easy in those days.

Okay, may I approach the bench? I find it irritating that I’m forced to use the words, “in those days.” It makes me feel old and I don’t want to be old.

Sidebar concluded.

There were no cellphones and cameras still required film, so the process would have seen me getting all spiffy, which spiffy success in those days was combed hair. I was a unique child, which if you haven’t guessed that by now then you disappoint me. I’m looking at you Reader 5.

So, assuming mom did take that pivotal picture, it would have remained in the camera until the film was used up, which if I have to be honest, could easily have been at the end of the school year and then mom is taking pictures of me as a senior at the end of the school year, holding a chalkboard that said “last, last day” or something like that.

And don’t even get me started about college. I don’t remember how mom and dad felt about me going to college and leaving home. Proud, I hope. A little sad, thrilled beyond tears to have the strange kid out of the house? Perhaps … just a little.

Either way, I know exactly how I felt — terrified. And maybe the kids currently in their first days and weeks of college are feeling the same. I don’t know, but they are probably handling it better than I am.

I know a few of the kids heading off through their parents and covering them for what it seems like forever and they will do fine. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure I would be accosted by squirrels walking across what I saw as the sprawling campus of South Dakota State University.

I was so freaked out by my new situation that I woke a good two, three hours early just to make sure I made it to class on time.

And meeting new people? I wasn’t a “new people” kind of guy. I was a “what the hell am I doing with other people,” kind of guy.

But, I made it through. Not without some struggles and pains, but I made it. I met people, people I still know today and call friends.

So it was my overactive mind that made life difficult. There will be lots of first days for students after college. First day of a new job, first day of being a new parent, first day realizing they’re using the words, “in those days.”

Now go out there and wield those pens and pencils soon-to-be students. Open those books with a flourish and sponge that knowledge the teachers are giving you.

You’re ready to take over the world. And college students, always remember… the first day you skip a class will be awesome. Go ahead, do it. It’s a rite of passage. Everybody does it and you’re parents expect it. They did it too and don’t let them lie to you.

Just … um, don’t tell them I told you to do it. I still have to see them during the week.