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August 25, 2009

AJ could scarcely stand the wait for Back to School Night yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite as excited. All summer he’s been complaining about school, but it has always seemed more like it was something he felt he was supposed to do, not something he really meant. He was clearly very excited, but also seemed to want to look like he wasn’t too excited. But he didn’t do a very good job.

AJ and I walked up to school alone. Poor Mr. Spy was still too sick to venture out. We wandered the hall looking for his classroom, which turned out to be the very last one (“When I come in from recess, it will be the very first one!” AJ said with excitement. Clearly it is the very best possible location.). We stopped to read the sign and AJ exclaimed with pleasure, “Mrs. W’s our aid! Yay!” Mrs. W. was his classroom aid in first grade. She left last year when she finished her teaching degree, to take a classroom job at another elementary school in the district. But in our district’s current major budget crisis, I guess hers was one of the positions eliminated, and so she is back,. She is wonderful and he is lucky to have her. She really functions as a second teacher.

Then we walked in. Mrs. S. took one look at us and said, “You must be AJ!” which AJ thought was wonderful. She said she recognized me from my library job last year so she knew who we were, even though we had none of us ever been introduced. And in that moment, she won us both over completely.

AJ’s new classroom looks much more grownup. He goes in the big kids’ door now, plays on the big kids’ playground and is an entirely new wing of the school. There is much less clutter and much more order than in any of his previous classrooms. The classroom has walls covered in maps and charts of interesting things. AJ found the job chart on the back wall and saw that he was to be the week’s messenger. “That’s my favorite job!” AJ found his desk, right in between his good friend C and The Boy Across the Street. AJ put his gym clothes in his new gym bag, which unlike the bags for the younger grades, has the school logo on it. He hung it up in his new cubby with his name on it and checked to see who was next to him. He came back in the classroom and arranged his school supplies in his desk. He turned to look at the wall of bookshelves packed with neatly arranged books. He found a bunch that looked familiar. There were 30 books written by Mr. Spy. They are going to be using them in class this year. “You’ll have to tell Daddy about that,” I said to him, and he nodded and kept looking around while I signed up to volunteer for a couple of class parties and for field trips. They don’t use parent volunteers weekly in third grade, for which I am actually grateful, although I’ll miss it too. Then we said goodbye to Mrs. S. and headed for the cafeteria for a snack.

AJ’s friend J’s mom is the chair of the PTO. She had emailed me in the afternoon saying she was desperate for more help manning the tables the PTO runs in the cafeteria to sell t-shirts and sign up volunteers and serve refreshments. I set myself up in the kitchen handing out brownies and muffins while AJ ran off with his friends. After my shift was done, I found him playing kickball on his new playground
AJ ran wild.

Found him after my shift outside playing kickball on his new playground with a pack of his friends. As I rounded him up to head home, he protested.

“Can I please go back inside and say goodbye to Mrs. S?”

“Sure. That’s a great idea,” I said, smothering a smile.

“Can you come with me?” he added a little nervously.


Once back in the classroom, he froze for a moment with nerves. “He just wanted to tell you goodbye,” I explained to his teacher, who then started talking to him as the smile on his face grew bigger.

Back home, instead of reading the next installment in his beloved Harry Potter book, we did a dramatic reading of the curriculum and classroom rules. Because that is how we roll around here. It’s nerd city.

This morning we walked back up to school. This time AJ wore his red backpack. He tried to outwalk me, but I was having none of it.

“What was your favorite year of school?” he asked.

“When I was a kid, you mean?”


“I think it was actually third grade. I loved my teacher that year. She was great. And she read us really good books out loud in class.”

“I think mine’s going to be third grade too.”

He found his line and stood behind his friends NS and C. NH was further up in line, his nose buried in a book. Then the bell rang and they began disappearing through the doors. And I learned something. Third graders don’t look back.

I walked home alone.


14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2009 10:13 am

    Just wait until he just grunts as he runs out the door, hair uncombed, shirt untucked, backpack half zipped, carrying a bottle of juice and some frosted blueberry poptarts, into a car of his buds, ten minutes before the final bell.

  2. freshhell permalink
    August 25, 2009 10:25 am

    Dusty’s also all about the rules and regulations and takes it very seriously. I get to hear a lot about the kids in summer camp who get to wear flip-flops to school. She has never looked back from day one so, I know that catch in your throat. It doesn’t seem to get easier. And soon I’ll get to watch them both leave, climb the same bus and wave good bye.

  3. August 25, 2009 11:07 am

    And you walked home to do what? I was completely non-productive that first day, feeling empty and at a loss for what came next.

  4. August 25, 2009 11:14 am

    Walked home to attempt to work. It was largely a failed effort. It always takes me a couple of days to adjust to the quiet. Only a few more minutes before I go back to pick him up!

  5. August 25, 2009 11:21 am

    This is the time of year I always say the beginning of a Philip Larkin poem to myself when I come back from taking the kids to school: “Home is so sad. It stays as it was left, shaped to the comfort of the last to go…”

  6. August 25, 2009 11:30 am

    That’s lovely, Jeanne. Thanks for the link.

  7. crankygirl permalink
    August 25, 2009 11:38 am

    Wow–he looks so big.

    He tried to outwalk YOU? That’s hilarious…do you know anyone who can outwalk you?

  8. August 25, 2009 12:20 pm

    My husband always took our daughter to her first day of school – at her request. “If mom takes me she’ll start crying and then I’ll start crying and I’ll be all embarassed.” Smart kid!

  9. August 25, 2009 2:09 pm

    Your little boy is turning into a little man. It’s amazing.

  10. LSM permalink
    August 25, 2009 6:33 pm

    I still remember so many things from third grade. Somehow, that year marks the transition to “real” school for me. I hope AJ has a great year. It certainly sounds like it’s off to a positive start!

  11. silveryeverafter permalink
    August 25, 2009 8:59 pm

    Lots of cool stuff here – from Mr. Spy’s books being in the curriculum to AJ’s enthusiasm for school – God, the time flies so fast. I’m so looking forward to preschool starting again; the bittersweetness of the whole thing is going to catch me unawares again, I know.

  12. readersguide permalink
    August 27, 2009 7:23 pm

    I loved third grade, too. You really are beyond the baby stuff and into the real meat of school. He looks so big!

  13. August 30, 2009 5:27 pm

    That’s very cool about Mr. Spy’s books being on the curriculum – hope AJ agrees.

    Unfocused Girl never looked back, even when she was not yet 3 and I took her for her first day of preschool. I was much wussier. Through kindergarten, her classroom window looked onto the parking lot. Back when I used to take her to school, I’d always linger by my car for a few minutes, watching, before I drove away.

  14. August 30, 2009 7:03 pm

    Cranky, AJ puts up a good fight on the speed walking, especially considering the difference in the length of our legs. Carol, that is an impressive observation on the part of your daughter. My husband and I usually walk AJ to the first day of school together, but this year Mr. Spy was quite ill and couldn’t attend. Eleanor, it’s true. He seems so much older to me than he did at this time last year. LSM, me too. Third grade is the first year I remember really, really well. It was the first time I remember thinking of myself as an individual operating in the world, of having any kind of world view at all outside my own borders. I can already see that happening for AJ too. Silvery, hear you about the bittersweetness. Readersguide, he is getting big, although he’s the smallest kid on his baseball team (which is 3rd & 4th grade as opposed to his football team which is 2nd and 3rd), which lets me think of him as a little guy a little longer. Mr. Unfocused, I think AJ’s excited about the books. He and Mr. Spy share the same name, so those kids who don’t know his dad is a writer sometimes ask AJ if HE wrote them, which amuses him.

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