Kindergarten tomorrow. First day of school, ever. A new era. The little girl is running around, doing somersaults and cartwheels, a big grinned splashed perpetually across her dimpled face. What’s for lunch tomorrow? Tea, she replies exuberantly, and not healthy kind either, this has sugar. She laughs and bounces up and down on the chair. Well, what else? For sure not just sugared tea, eh? Chips! A granola bar! All said with exclamations points, thrown up in the air like fireworks. A sandwich! A chocolate square!
She slides off the chair onto the floor, laughing and pushes thick, glossy black hair out of her dark dancing eyes. She races from the room, leaving the atmosphere popping with energy, molecules bouncing off the walls. The little dynamo is back in a flash and thrusts a brand new lunch box at me. Open it, she says. Just unzip the bottom and look. I unzip the bottom and look. Shiny wrapping glints at me, the bag of chips sits slyly at the back, all salt and vinegar, ready to pucker up some pretty little lips. The chocolate bar sleeps quietly, biding its time to give that sugar high tomorrow afternoon when the teacher has a headache.
So what are you gonna do tomorrow on your first day? Oh, we’ll sing, she says offhandedly. Sing what? Joy to the World! Oh no, we say, that’s over, seasons gone, you won’t sing that for sure. Well, they’re gonna sing it, she just knows it.
Black hair is gone again, out of the room, back in a flash. It’s hundred day of school you know, she says. Her older brother, wiser of course then her, wonders if she’ll celebrate that or not. Yes of course, she states, suddenly unsure. She then ventures the query, suddenly sober, you think it’s only duh oder grades? Well, he replies, with the unfathomable wisdom and insight of fourteen year-olds everywhere, you haven’t been there one hundred days. This is lost on her, and she produces her one-hundred beads that she painstakingly strung together; living, twinkling proof that yes, she will most certainly be celebrating the one-hundredth day with them. See Dad, I have beads. And I’m gonna take them to school. And they’re for the hundredth day of school. It’s gonna be the hundredth day of school and I’m gonna be there. Yes, daughter, you will be.
The beads come apart for the fifth time. The brother puts them back together for the fifth time. He then flatly states that he won’t do that again. His mother thanks him for that, the five times that is. The little girl, now at the table, grins, her eyes invisible, all joy and light.
She is now eating a bran muffin. I reach for a muffin and she is quick to stop me. No dad, those are for tomorrow. For breakfast. Oh right, you’re going to school tomorrow and you need these for your breakfast. Because you’re going to school. Yes, kindergarten begins tomorrow. Of course. How could I forget!
What’s the best part of going to school, I ask. She hesitates, muffin on her face, butter on her lip. She grins wide. You’d think her mouth would be sore by now. She grins some more and thinks hard. My birthday, she says. Your birthday!? Well yes, I get gifts on my birthday. Maybe, little girl, maybe. In a way you’re right, you will get gifts at school, you just won’t see them until you’re thirty-two and wishing you were six.
The teacher says to bring a teddy bear. Ah, the teddy bear. A vital part of kindergarten. Something soft and fuzzy and familiar to curl up with at nap time. The teddy bear is already a celebrity, being hoisted on little arms, carried to and fro, from room to room, no doubt nauseous and wishing for woods. There was some contention as to which teddy would win the trip to kindergarten. Finally, the little black-haired girl decided to let her cousins decide which one would go. They chose. The teddy blushed, and at first was flattered and no little excited. Now he just wants it over with.
Muffins, lunch boxes, teddy bears, and, oh yes, The Desk. Her vehicle to success, her little haven in the storms of study. She can’t wait to see it, to slide in, pack her books away, eventually scratch her name in it. Old, well used, brown, pockmarked and scratched. A homely kind of thing. But how lucky can a little desk get? Tomorrow it will hold the world’s most excited little beauty on her first day of school.