| LifeTakes |

First Day of School

As I walked across the large stone slabs of the teacher’s entrance, I couldn’t help feeling that I was leaving half my life behind


I did my homework one day a year — the first day of school. The fresh binder, the not yet dog-eared manila dividers with the colored plastic tabs, the empty loose-leaf, papers crackling as I turned them ... all beckoned. And I promised myself I’d continue every night.

But the next night, I no longer put my uniform jumper and shirt over a chair, lying in wait for the morning. I left them in the closet from where I’d pull them out in the morning rush.

Yesterday’s vow was a hoax. By the time we were up to chapter two in math, knew that Shaul was anointed king, and had our second spelling test, the allure of school had vanished.

Rather than pulling out my hole puncher, I jammed holes in the stencils with the ring of the binder. The weather was turning muggy and the sunlight receded. Oh, and my tights had a hole so I couldn’t stand wearing them. Especially not with my shoes, which already sported a deep crease up front.

Every year, I’d believe that this year would be different. This year I would do my homework, keep pristine notes, have fun, and stay out of trouble. Freshness is blinding. And fleeting.

Not so many years later, I joined my second-grade teacher in the teacher’s room. Once again, I started with grand visions. I wore a black suit that was trendy yet dignified, with stub heels. I worked for two hours on my first handout. My briefcase was chic, my hair done nicely, the scent of copy machines mixing with pretzels heady.

I got used to going into class as a teacher. My black outfit felt itchy and uncomfortable. I didn’t have time for homework sheets. I, along with my students, watched out the window as one leaf fell, then two. I knew it was my job to brighten the atmosphere, so we did projects and games and told stories. But come March, we all knew that soon Pesach vacation would commence, and then it was just a sefiras haOmer countdown until the last day of school.

After giving chinuch a few of my best years, I left school for the last time. As I walked across the large stone slabs of the teacher’s entrance, I couldn’t help feeling that I was leaving half my life behind. Since I remember myself, the linoleum tiles, the distinctive scent of chalk and lemon cleanser, the familiar faces of principals who had raised me and employed me, were permanent markers in my life. Now I was on my own. What was life like outside the sacred walls of learning?

Since graduating the red brick building, I’ve had many first days. While during my school days, it was an annual occasion, now I have as many first days as I raise my hand toward them.

When the mirror told me, “Gosh, you’ve put on way too many pounds to write it off as baby fat.” It was time to diet. The first day I weighed cooked vegetables, ate sprouts, and denounced chocolate as poison. I felt really healthy. A week passed. I wanted Super Snacks. The spices and oil smelled so good.

Or when I yelled at my kids during bedtime. Was this how I wanted to escort my kids into dreamland? It was back to school for me. I listened to a chinuch shiur. I woke up before the kids. I was kind and patient. I even built with Clics. A day or two passed. It was two hours after bedtime, and the kids had more interest in spilling juice on their pajamas than in snuggling up in bed. My patience ran low. The first day of school had passed.

But there is hope. When I set the curriculum, the school of life commences every day. Firsts are always there — the first day of walking towards my goal, the first time to learn, the first time to be patient with myself as I relearn. Each morning, I can don a new attitude and decide to change. I can always return to the first day of school.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 306)

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