Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school with my new crop of (mostly male) kindergartners. By the end of the day, my voice was shot, but I felt mighty tall - something I only experience in my classroom! And so a new year begins.

This year, I'm working with several families I've worked with before, and it was heartwarming during our "Meet the Teacher" open house yesterday to hear older siblings up to sixth grade who are former students of mine sit down at the art table and reminisce about kindergarten. They remembered the most surprising things. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall last night listening to them prepare their little brothers and sisters for their first day of kindergarten.

As for me, I reread a couple poems I wrote when my youngest child started kindergarten, to remind myself that - despite all the ways in which early childhood education has changed since then - sending a child to kindergarten is still a big deal for parents. The first poem, "Five," was written a few months before my son (who is now learning to drive) started kindergarten and originally was published in the March/April 2004 issue of Mothering magazine.

Sacred season of frog pond, 
humming and mommy time 
appreciates dandelions three-fold 
with fistfuls of I-love-you bouquets, 
proud salads of tender, hand-picked greens 
(despite their bitterness), 
and seed fairies blown into the wind. 
He digs, snuggles, makes books 
(humming all the while), 
relentlessly searches for lilacs 
to grace the kitchen table. 

Budding scientist employs sticks, nets, 
stones and containers as tools 
of observation and exploration; 
young monk sits straight, cultivating 
meditative awareness of an anthill. 
He plants peach pits, 
stops to smell flowers, 
cares for salamanders, frogs and insects 
yet is fearful of bullfrogs and snakes 
(who have no place in this pond). 

Five dwells in the realm 
of imagination and possibility, 
bonds with the living, breathing world. 
He creates fairy houses, 
constructs the perfect train track, 
names the pair of robins who 
frequent our yard, 
always enjoys a campfire. 

Five is precious like a late autumn day 
sunny and warm with clear blue sky 
when a new season beckons. 
Though winter silences the voices 
of crickets, birds and frogs, 
I beg Six and school teachers 
to spare the sweet songs 
he hums throughout the day. 

He says, “But I’ll always 
be like I am, when I’m six and seven 
and eight and nine and ten... 
and twenty-eight and—what comes 
after twenty-eight?” 
Gratefully, I smile 
as Five continues counting. 

© Susan Meyer 2003 

The next poem was written during his first week of school...when I wasn't in a punctuating mood.

First Day of School 
bit of scarlet in the treetops 
bit of silver glistening in my hair 
bit of chill in the morning breeze 
as a season draws to an end 

summer was sprinkled with showers 
of anticipatory grief 
crying at the drop of a hat 
at the thought of him going 
to kindergarten 

the first day of school 
we walked together to his classroom 
bypassing the dreaded school bus goodbye 
that left a trail of mothers’ tears 
all along our road 

I handed him off to a woman 
with a beautiful smile 
who remembered his name 
all I needed was the bridge formed 
by looking into her eyes 
and beseeching her, without words 
to please take good care 
of this precious boy 
who already felt at home 

tearlessly I walked away 
returned to a quiet house 
and cleaned the morning dishes 
no small shadows 
following me around 
asking how to spell words 
or begging to go to the library 
feeling as if I were missing 
an appendage 

he bounced off the bus 
jubilant about his day 
eager to ride the bus in the morning 
and sure enough 
he was dressed and ready 
first thing in the morning 
so as not to miss it 
he is well attached and ready

along the sidewalk, mothers 
wearing tee-shirts and ponytails 
push strollers, 
nourish hearts, souls, and bodies 
without wristwatches 

some look tired, expressions 
of marathon days, diaper changes, 
tantrums, lack of privacy and solitude, 
moments of sheer exhaustion 
when a poorly timed spill triggers 
a full-fledged breakdown 

some look serene, expressions 
of the perfectly timed kiss 
that replenishes and brings you back; 
innocent, kind words; new milestones; 
gracious belly laughs 

how many times have grandmothers 
and mothers of older children 
babbled to me with that knowing look 
about how quickly time passes? 
now I have arrived at the other side 
of this first crossing 
I am one of them 

now there is time 
to begin where I left off 
time to launch a career, 
make phone calls and appointments, 
think uninterrupted thoughts, 
sit down to meditate, 
entertain new possibilities 

bit of scarlet in the treetops 
bit of silver glistening in my hair 
bit of chill in the morning breeze 
yesterday’s eternal season 
has drawn to an end 
like a flash of lightning 
in the summer sky

 © Susan Meyer 2003 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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