August 6, 2009

School Daze Before the Peloponneasian War

A sure sign that school is about to begin – we are finishing the summer “To Do” list. Husband has the video camera out and is processing the graduation videos from May. I suggest Cecil B. de Husband keep his day job as a librarian. Filmmaker he is not.

Highlights of our nephew’s graduation DVD include a long segment of people posing standing completely still, static views of green grass growing, and my husband’s feet during commencement as he whistles Pomp and Circumstance aimlessly in the background.

Because Husband has no clue about editing video clips, my nephew’s graduation is lumped with Christmas Eve 2007. Husband was supposed to record my quartet at church singing Let There Be Peace on Earth but he taped a mother-daughter duet instead. I know the lights were low, but this worries me that he failed to recognize his own wife of twenty-plus years. In his defense, he probably couldn’t see the on/off button in candlelight.

We are still working on summer projects, yet the old school bell is ringing. Son’s pile of junk from freshman year of college, which was moved out onto the air hockey table when he came home in May, remains untouched. He goes back in ten days. The summer before his freshman year we spent hours preparing, shopping for the right items and worrying about every detail, from surge protector to twin-sized jersey sheets and shower shoes.

This year we had a conversation, “Do you need a new pair of tennis shoes?”

"No," he said.

“Need spending money,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Get a job at school,” I said, and that was our joint extensive planning for sophomore year.

When it is time to pack again I trust Son will have his old tennis shoes and the pile of junk from the air hockey table ready for the thousand mile journey to his sophomore year.

It seems like yesterday. We moved into this house two months before Son started first grade. We took his picture by our front door every first day of school. The first grade picture shows a skinny little boy in plaid shorts and new tennis shoes. The senior year picture shows the same boy, twelve years older, with this “get it over, Mom” look on his face.

As a child, I knew that school had arrived when Dad went out the door in a suit and tie. A teacher, Dad had a 12-month contract and worked in the summer visiting farmers and potential and current agriculture students. After Labor Day we sensibly started school. Before the Peloponnesian War and air conditioned schools, we didn’t begin the second week in August.

Because Dad went to school, I was always eager to go. My parents told me, and I believed them, that when I turned five I could go to school. My parents think this is a hilarious story. I do not and haven't yet recovered from the despair.

On the exact July morning that I turned five I got up and put my school dress on and was ready for school. (Another feature of pre Peloponnesian War period was girls wearing dresses to school. After I went to high school in fall 1971, the dress code changed. We wore army shirts and low-slung jeans with two inch zippers and wide bell-bottoms.)

I showed up at the breakfast table in my shiny shoes and my white sleeveless dress with the red piping and I was prepared. I am just insistent that TODAY was the first day of school.

You idiots, don’t you get it? I am five years old. Take me to school. You told me I could go to school when I was five.

In pleasing the little princess (or to shut me up), my father put me in the Chevy Bellaire and drove me the three blocks to my future elementary school. Of course there was no one there. I was devastated, and said to my father (oft-repeated) “Where are all the little boys and girls?”

The little boys and girls were at home in their Davey Crockett feety pajamas watching Captain Kangaroo on black and white TV sets while eating Post Toasties in lead-painted bowls. Oh, cruel cruel world. I had to wait until September for afternoon kindergarten with Mrs. Reed (what a great name for a teacher). Quoth the raven.