Bus 18 arrived late on August 20-something, 2003.
Three eager six year olds and their parents stood at a sidewalk corner whose whereabouts hopefully fell within the same coordinates as 1026 Rome Beauty Drive– the non-existent address that, incidentally, the administration had listed as our bust stop’s location.
On this particular Monday, my hair was brushed, my Barbie backpack was filled with an unopened, 24-count box of Crayola crayons and my shimmery, pink flip flops screamed elementary school chic. Unlike my fictitious idol, Junie B. Jones, I had every intention of riding the stupid, smelly school bus– if it would ever arrive.
It was the first day of first grade, and I was about to be late for school.
The bus ride– or walk– to the first day of school elicits a particular nervous fervor that makes you jump out of bed a little more enthusiastically than you might in, say, December.
There are seating charts and new books and the ever-suspenseful wonder of what familiar faces will greet you at your next class. It’s nerve-wracking and exhilarating, and the slightest deviation from previous semesters’ routines leaves you inescapably convinced that you were never cut out for the hardships of academia.
Amid the papers and projects and looming concerns that the bus– or bedtime– may never arrive, what starts off as a never-ending to-do list inevitably evolves into a familiar routine.
The worries of syllabus week become memories of caffeinated afternoons spent hunched over textbooks and surrounded by classmates; the nerves of finals week become stories of late-night study sessions spent giggling over midnight snacks and surrounded by friends.
But these moments are often hard to imagine on the first day of school.
On the first day of first grade, I plopped on the ground and contemplated how long I could wait before it became acceptable to start walking. I was far more interested meeting my teacher than I was in making polite small talk about my first day of school outfit, and I began plucking blades of grass to disguise my panic that I would forever be known as the girl who was late on her first day of first grade.
But what crept by in hours took merely 10 minutes; the bus driver arrived every bit as frazzled as her pint-sized counterparts, yet her compassionate smile foreshadowed the months of singing, laughing and friendship-making ahead.
It was the first day of first grade, and I arrived right on time.