Nothing strikes more fear in a high schooler's heart than these four little words:
First. Day. Of. School.
How times have changed, n'est-ce pas?
My now teen daughter started preschool right before her third birthday. She had been in family daycare (I worked at an ad agency in Boston then), but was "moving up." On that very first day (the first of many firsts), she wore a red plaid dress with a smocked bodice, puffed sleeves and crisp white collar. She had on ankle socks and Mary Janes.
How do I remember this? Her first first day of school picture is on my mother's refrigerator.
Along with the subsequent twelve since.
She was so excited. Her father and I dropped her off with her tiny backpack and her little lunchbox. Of course, we had to capture the moment for posterity. And thus began a tradition shared by proud parents everywhere.
Looking back on all of the "first day of school" pictures, there are fancy hairdos (conceived by my daughter, executed by her mother), favorite footwear (red sparkly Dorothy shoes one year, cowgirl boots the next), classic dresses that were soon replaced by syndicated character clothes (remember Bratz?) and eventually by a sense of casual coolness, that belied the young wearer's anxiety.
Yesterday, the outfit was carefully choreographed not to look like an "outfit." (If the amount of time my daughter spent in front of her mirror prior to coming down for breakfast is any indication, a lot of effort went into looking so effortless.) Cargo shorts and a loose tank top with a mystical design on it, a pair of Toms flat espadrilles. Hair pulled away from her face with a clip.
She grumbled her way through breakfast ("I'm not hungry") and was about to be picked up by a friend's mom. "Wait," I said, looking for a camera. "Picture, picture!"
I'm fortunate that my mother keeps her refrigerator gallery up-to-date (not just with my daughter's pictures but with my young niece's as well). I can use "Grandmama" as my excuse. In truth, though, I treasure these photos just as much.
"Ugh, use your phone," my daughter said, rolling her eyes. We went out to the patio.
"Here, hold your backpack so it's obvious that it's the first day of school. Stand up straight. Okay, now, smile. S-m-i-l-e!" I know I sounded ridiculous, but there are times when it doesn't matter. I shot a couple of pictures in quick succession.
As is her way, she immediately grabbed the phone out of my hands. "Ugh," she groaned, as she hit delete, delete, delete as quickly as possible. "I look disgusting!"
As you know, I am a devoted mother and can be a bit partial. I adore my daughter and personally find her beautiful at any time of any day. That said, while a perfect stranger might not be as enthralled as I am, I seriously doubt anybody would use the word "disgusting" to describe her. I shot again.
"Disgusting!" she repeated. I'm thinking maybe she was out the day they learned that word. We wrestled for the phone and I won. Defeated, she begged me, "Just don't post it on Facebook!"
Our delightful first day of school ritual over, she went off to face sophomore year and I went up to my office to work. I looked forward to hearing about her classes and teachers that afternoon. The first day wasn't so bad, really.
Or as my daughter puts it, "1 down, 179 to go."