Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)
TITLE: Back to School
By dub W
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Although our children are grown, with children of their own; I often reflect on the first days of school. It was not that long ago, it seems, that three red haired youngsters boarded the school bus for their first days. As I wrote this I realized that the new school year would soon be approaching. I can sit in my library window and watch the school busses now, but it was not always so.
Generally, we think of tearful mothers helping sad kindergarteners onto huge yellow buses - filled with forlorn five year olds. But, that is not necessarily the whole story of the first days of school. There are a few fathers out there who also feel pangs of desertion during that first week. While our kids were in school, both my wife and I worked. She worked in a nearby community; I on the other hand, worked locally.
Since early summer it had been "dad" who came home and fixed lunch for the "summer at home bunch." It was "dad" who was summoned when little brother locked himself in the bathroom and older brother (also sitter) suspected the tub was about to explode. And when the cat died, it was dad who came home and spent his lunch hour burying a slightly stiff feline (eulogy and all).
But, all summers must end, and for youth, that means the school doors have swung open. Sure enough, in the 70’s and 80’s I watched as at 7:15 a.m., on a day in late August, a big yellow bus would stop in front of our house, and two of three eager children raced to climb on board (the third rode a different bus). A scene, I imagine, repeated throughout the countryside that same morning.
My wife would prepare to leave for work on those mornings, I would follow, checking the windows, turning on the burglar alarm and locking doors. We headed in opposite directions, with words of "see you tonight....don’t forget church social at 6 o’clock…" And, so we parted, kids one way, she a different way, and I another way.
The first day of school the hours crept by. Finally, it was time for lunch. Arriving home I unlocked the door, rushed to turn off the burglar alarm, then realized: no freckled face (still covered with breakfast jelly) was going to pop out around the corner with a customary "Boo." A teenager wasn't going to suddenly appear with a list of grievances (enough to cause a Teamsters strike). The only movement was the (new) cat yawning.
The house was devoid of any sound. Nearly three months had passed since I had last encountered the house in such a manner. On the first day of school I had a very lonely luncheon. On, the positive side, when I opened the pantry there was actually a loaf of bread. Cereal boxes were shelved. The butter was put away. I opened the refrigerator, lunchmeat, untouched still waited in the meat drawer, I took two slices. Without "M-TV", the stereo, or the family "lets haze daddy" ritual (which has to do with the teen telling the 9 year old to remind dad to use the low cal bread, one slice of low cal cheese and no mayo) So, without any outside complaining I devoured my sandwich, drank a real soft drink, and finished off a bag of Sunday's potato chips. I ignored the guilt feeling until my next doctor's appointment.
With my hour of peace almost over; I set the alarms and dashed to the door. But, as I pulled the door shut, the feeling hit me again, no six year old was calling, "wait Dad, you forgot to give me my hug.”