Saturday, September 8, 2012

The First Day of High School

"A" my name is Alice
and my husband's name is Alan
we live in Alabama
where we sell apples

"B" my name is Betty
and my husband's name is Ben
we live in Boston
were we sell bananas

And so on it went, from A to Z.

Three teenagers in the back seat of the car, rehashing a childhood game in an effort to pass the hour-long ride home from the beach.  With the knowledge that my daughter Melissa preferred we didn't exist, my husband Bob and I resisted the urge to listen, to laugh, and to shout out suggestions.

As we continued on our effortless and (shockingly) traffic-free journey, the rhythmic sound of wheels on road, coupled with the innocent giggles emanating from the back seat, lulled me into a dream-like state where I floated back in time.  There I stood in my kitchen, holding a ball in my hands.  A blue, basketball-sized ball, much softer than the professional version but with a sure and steady ability to bounce its way across the tiled floor.   My six-year old Melissa had picked it from among dozens that had been stuffed into a six foot cage in the middle of the supermarket, just beckoning children to bounce them all over the store.  For a few dollars I figured, "why not?".

As a stood in my kitchen with my eager young offspring watching in wonder, I taught her a new game, bouncing the ball as I uttered each syllable.

"A" my name is Alice
and my husband's name is Alan
we live in Alabama
where we sell apples

"I want to try mommy, I want to try!" she squealed.

I handed her the ball.  With hand and eye coordination not quite perfected, Melissa tried her best to bounce the ball while thinking of things that started with the letter "B".  After running after the ball several times, and a wee bit of help from her parents, she happily allowed her mommy to have a turn.

And so on it went, from A to Z.

Nine years later.

"H" my name is Helen
and my husband's name is Harry
we come from Houston
where we sell um, um, um

"Hats!" shouted Melissa in an effort to help her friend Sarah.
"Horses!" shouted teenager number three, Melissa's friend John
"Hoses!" I chimed in, unable to help myself.
"Um.....um.....ummm," struggled Sarah, not wanting to take any suggestions and determined to think of something to sell beginning with the letter "H" completely on her own.

Finally, with an air of triumph, Sarah shouted, "Houses!"

And so on it went, from A to Z.

In three more days, the three teenagers in the back seat of my car would be entering that building where childhood is checked at the door.  Yes, my daughter and her friends were going to start high school.  If they had been nervous, their fear didn't show during the drive home from the shore.

"N" my name is Nancy
and my husband's name is Ned
we come from Nebraska 
where we sell napkins.

They had taken it upon themselves to hold onto their innocence, and from my invisible position in the front seat of the car, I relished every last moment.  For I knew in a few short days, a whole new world of wonder, uncertainty, and fear awaited them.   Would they get lost on the first day?  Would they miss the bus?  Would they handle the increased and much more challenging course work?  Would their hearts get broken? Would they succumb to the taunts of bullies?  Would they be tempted by alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs?

"R" my name is Robin 
and my husband's name is Ralph
we come from Rhode Island
where we sell roller skates

Would they stay so young, so carefree, so innocent?  Three teenagers, laughing through a childhood game learned so long ago?

Three days later, Melissa awakened at 5:45 in the morning, styled her hair to perfection, and made sure her clothes were just right.  Then she reluctantly stood in the same kitchen where I taught her how to bounce a ball so many years ago, and allowed me to capture the moment through the miracle of  smart phone photography.

As she walked down the street towards the corner bus stop, she turned her head and signaled for me to go in the house, not to watch, she'd be just fine.  I made my way back through the front door, then immediately turned and ran to the car, jumped in and drove to the end of my driveway, craning my neck and squinting my eyes in an effort to see down to the corner.

Too far to get a glimpse, I conceded defeat.

Back in the house, as I poured my coffee, it suddenly occurred to me.  The smart phone!

Not quite an expert in the art of texting, I painstakingly tapped out the brief message, "R u on the bus yet?"

I waited a few anguished moments before the phone let out the familiar "ding" alerting me to her reply.

"Yes we r almost there"

"Great have a fun day" I texted back, trying to show some emotional restraint.

"I love you" came her reply.

And with that, I smiled,  as some....not all.....but some of my fears washed away.

"L" my name is Lisa
and my husband's name is Bob
we come from New Jersey
where we're the proud parents of a high school freshman

Yes, Melissa was going to be just fine.

If you like my stories please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

30 comments:

  1. Seems like just yesterday that we were playing this game on the blacktop at Pollock!! This week I had my last "first day" of elementary school - with 5 kids ranging in age from 23 to 10, I have been going to elementary school for 17 years!! Steve (my SO) had his last "first day" of school as his youngest started her senior year of high school! Your stories bring back so may great memories!! Keep 'em coming!

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    1. I know Bonnie, I do remember playing that game at Pollack, and jump rope and hop scotch. The balls were red and very bouncy and the boys would always steal them and throw them to the other end of the school yard!

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  2. I haven't heard of the game but it does sound fun for any age. I enjoyed your post! :)

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  3. That's a wonderful back-to-school piece. What great memories you captured. Hope their high school years are filled with joy and learning. Really enjoyed your post.

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  4. Oh, Lisa. I had tears streaming down my face as I read that. That "I love you" text touched me deeply. My younger daughter started high school just this past week and I am just so happy that we still communicate when I remember that, at Sarah's age, I was barely speaking to my mother.

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    1. Barbara, I'm so glad that my words touched your heart!

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  5. Awesome Post, as I have a 10th grader and twins in 7th, I am so grateful, that they have an open line of communication with my hubbie and I!and say I love you each day, it melts my heart to know that I can talk to them!

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    1. Pamela, I agree! The key is to stay involved with our kids, to talk to them, and to not let them push us away, no matter how hard!

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  6. You are such a talented writer, woman! I homeschooled, so in this respect I got lucky. I never had to watch and worry on those first days of school. But on the other hand, there's still that worry as they head out into the world. "Did I give them all the tools they need?" "Did I teach them enough?" "Did I do the right thing?"
    It may be a different scenario, but the Mother's feelings are the same. Thank you!

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    1. It's true Chris, no matter what stage of their lives, we are always going to worry. Thanks so much for your compliments, and your support!

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  7. Huh...never heard of that game,now I wish I had. I just had to deal with my "last" first day of kindergarten with my youngest. 6 kids and I've been doing this "school" thing since 1995...maybe a game would have helped me not cry so much when my youngest and only daughter finally started high school.

    Luvd this post :)
    Sharon from VB

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  8. I've never heard of that game either! My oldest just started "walk-in speech." He's nearly 4 and goes for 30 minutes into the big school each week. I don't know how this mama will handle it when he goes on the bus! Thank you for sharing!

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  9. A hard day, to be sure. It is my daughter's first year of high school also and I was nervous, but I don't think she was. They always handle it better than we think they will. And even if they make mistakes in high school and in life, we have to trust that they will turn out okay in the end. We've done our job and the rest is up to them.

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    1. It's true Cindy, we need to trust our kids - I know they will turn out great!

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  10. Great post! I had a very similar experience! They will be just fine.. will we?

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  11. Whenever I read your posts, I find myself laughing and then moved to tears in the end. Melissa will be just fine, yes. We moms have so many fears, but sometimes all we really have to do is just trust them and life itself. She's so lucky to have you by her side all throughout her journey in life...

    Oh, I must play that game with my 6-year old :)

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    1. Thanks so much Pepper! You should try the game, kids love it and it's a great way to teach them vocabulary, the alphabet, and to think on their own! I played it when I was a kid!

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  12. What a beautiful post, Lisa! I love the way you've woven the game in to your writing. And how sweet that your daughter was replaying this game days before she enters high school. Funny how they're older yet still pretty young as Freshman. How did she do? And you?

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  13. It sounds like you had a harder first day than Melissa did...haha! Cute post!

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  14. What a cute post...I've never herd of that A-Z game I'm sure my kids will find it enjoyable!

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    1. It is a great way to teach the alphabet to your kids and to get them to earn vocabulary!

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  15. I seriously have tears in my eyes! I can just imagine your thoughts that morning! I also have never heard of that game - it's added to the list! Though a little tweeking since I have an all boy house. Thanks for visiting my blog, have a great week!

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    1. Yes, Nan, I should add that Melissa's friend John changed the words a bit since he's a boy. Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

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