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The Last First Day by Ann Marie Craig

I sobbed.

Today is our youngest daughter’s very last first day of school, and so it is mine too. That thought did not occur to me until I was hugging her good-bye, telling her to “get out there and make a difference.” So in the midst of that hug, I sobbed. If I think about it long enough, I’ll sob some more right now and short out the laptop. After all, it has been 29 years since we watched our first 5-year-old take giant steps onto the big, yellow bus and worried about her negotiating kindergarten on her own 10 miles down the road.

That means I am old.

OK, I’ll sob some more. Do you have a clean handkerchief?

Here is a piece I wrote when Maddie was in first grade, and I think it sums up the off-to-school experiences that we all share as students and parents. Sometimes the thoughts are bittersweet and sometimes they are funny. Time goes on.

I wave as the bus zooms past our house for the second time. Living on a dead-end road has its pleasures, one of which is double-the-sight of the big yellow bus as it carries our six-year-old off to school each day.

She loves riding the bus. At first it was a little scary. “I’m the first one on the bus and I don’t know anyone,” she’d say. “You’ll see children you know,” I’d assure her. And, indeed, she does know lots of her fellow bus riders. She has a little routine when she gets on the bus in the morning: tag out down the long driveway and wait for the bus, greet the driver, find a seat on the side of the bus where Mom stands to wave good-bye, look for the sheep in the pasture through the trees as the bus passes Grandma & Grandpa’s house, switch sides on the bus when the bus turns around at the dead end, see the sheep again, wave at Mom again (who has to wait at the end of the driveway to wave no matter what), and then ride on to school.

Since I grew up on this farm, I rode the bus too, being picked up at nearly the same spot. We had a jolly bus driver named “Gabby” who roared up, greeted us profusely with “Good morning!” and “How are you today!”, grumbling good-naturedly about the wait for several of us to run down the long hill to the bus stop when we were late. We’d have a re-run of that greeting when we came home, both at the school and when we left the bus, “Good night, now!” Gabby would whoop.

In the 1970s, maxi skirts were in fashion, and in true form of one who needed to express herself, I made a bright orange, wide-wale corduroy maxi for a 4-H project, truly making it my own by decorating it with a large A made of white daisy braid. “Hey, it’s Grandma!” Gabby would bellow at me every time I wore it.

During wet or muddy weather, Mom & Dad made us wear our boots. We hated our over-the-shoe boots, especially having to wear them at school when no one else had to. So we devised a plan: if we could get to the end of the slushy driveway early, we could pull off our boots, put them into the oversized mailbox for after school, and ride to school boot-free! That lasted until the mailman was surprised with 6 pairs of boots at mail delivery time.

The school day is done and I walk out to meet Maddie as she gets off the bus. We always wave as it returns up our road because friends are still riding and they, of course, need a send-off. I guess that in a year or two it may be embarrassing for her to have her mom waving at the bus all the time, but I don’t care. I’ll wait till the bus has gone almost by and I’ll sneak a wave anyway. A school bus ride is a ride to a day’s adventure. What adventure could be more important?

By the way, I waved at the bus both ways this morning!!

Find more writings by Ann Marie Craig at http://www.centuryfarmhouse.com/

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