I love September. September is to me, what January is to other folk. A fresh start to a new year. I always associate the newness and excitement of the year with the start of school.
I was one of those kids who just loved school. I attribute my excitement about school to my mom’s descriptions of elementary school life
Mom: Don’t you like to draw?
Mom: Don’t you like to play?
Mom: Don’t you like to read?
Me: Yes (actually I don’t think I was reading yet but I liked being read to or making up stories).
Mom: Well that’s what you do at school.
The result of these ‘talks’… I was ready to start!
When I found out I was going to start first grade in the local public school I was elated. I mean, I was the happiest kid in the world. I was school obsessed. To tell the truth, I didn’t know what to expect which made it an adventure for me.
My older sister just couldn’t understand my excitement. She had friends and fun in school, but for her it was “just school.” I thought of entering ‘first grade as some great rite of passage. For me, school translated into parent approved journeys to the other side of the neighborhood.
When I arrived, I was instantly enamored by the building. Bricks, hallways, stairs leading to more rooms. Classrooms filled with desks that were made for little kids. Prior to my arrival into first grade, I believed desks only existed in the adult world. The idea of having a desk, well that was just over the top. A kid with a desk! Incredible!
And then there was the girls’ bathroom. Words were written in each stall, on walls, at all heights. I didn’t understand the messages and really didn’t care. I was just mystified by the colors, lettering, and the stories those walls told. My parents anticipated my fascination with the bathroom graffiti.
I remember my father’s instructions. “You are going to see words in the bathroom you may not understand. DO NOT ask anyone at school what the words mean. You can (will) ask us and we will explain.” I should mention I was one of those “literal” kids and often took my parents to task on their promises.
I recall we were standing under the tree in front of our house, getting ready to go for a ride in the car. Something in the air stirred my memory. As I climbed into the back seat, I casually asked about a word I saw scribbled on the wall. “What does fook, Fouke mean?”
I recall feeling a push into the backseat, where I sat, starring at the back of their heads. It was silent; perhaps they sighed, or in hindsight laughed or in panic, wondered if I asked my teacher or an older kid about the word.
I never saw their faces, and never got an answer. But I remember it was a very pleasant ride passing by trees and people.
Let me end with this image. It’s a photo of me returning from school. I am standing on the lawn in a dress, with a plaid tote bag that came with an umbrella. I loved that bag to death and wore it with everything, which drove my mom crazy. Any way in the photo I have 2 braids, am wearing a dress and knee socks: one sock was up and the other one was down. Weary from another breathtaking day at school.
Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers… a lot. Her column appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.