Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School!

Ah, the first day of school in New York City, when one million kids return to classrooms in the largest school system in the U.S. For me, it's always a bittersweet occasion. Sure I'm sorry the summer is ending and we won't have the freedom to jump spontaneously in the car or hop on the subway and go somewhere fun like a ballgame or trip outside the City. But I really do welcome the return of the school routine and the reconnection with friends who have been away most of the summer. Perhaps it's some part of my military school experience that welcomes the predictability of the days and weeks of the school year. (If only this could be one of those public schools that has adopted uniforms, then we wouldn't have to hear the chorus of "I don't want to wear that" each morning.)

For the most part, the boys haven't been upset about the return to school. My older son likes to talk a good game when it comes to registering displeasure over going back to classes, and even this morning he did some posturing and complaining as we walked the several minutes from home to school. (These photos, for example, capture him at the moment of arrival, as he made a half-hearted gesture of defiant resistance to the reimposition of routine.) But I'm pretty sure he's also happy about the return - and has nearly said as much on several occasions.

As the sports junky and hyper-competitive schoolyard athlete, he knows today represents a return to the playing fields, both at school and on weekends. Granted, these are hardly the greenswards of a mythic Eton or Harrow, preparing an entitled elite for society's leadership, but they offer the same baptismal rite in the doctrines of fair play and sportsmanship, albeit under more democratic circumstances. Hardly Tom Brown's School Days, but important life lessons indeed! I only wish the competitive spirit manifest on the soccer pitch or baseball diamond could be carried into the classroom as well. They're to young, however, to really appreciate the competitiveness engendered by time in the classroom.

My younger son, more eager to acknowledge the pleasures of school's academic challenges, marched confidently in and was reading a book before I had left the room. One suspects that he's inherited my geeky "school is cool" demeanor. And no doubt at some point in his life, he'll be teased mercilessly for his more studious manner.

Equally interesting this morning were the ritually averred "Hellos," awkward hugs, and "air kisses" attendant with the first day of school. It was all so smoothly done - and the lines delivered with such ease - that one might swear the whole thing had been choreographed. "Oh, the kids grew so much!" "You look lovely!" "Did you lose weight over the summer?" "How were the Bahamas?" My favorites were the "perma-tan" moms who looked only slightly darker than they had in January or February. They reminded me of the brown, leathery visages of mummified humans recently found in a European peat bog. No less humorous were the Wall Street dads, not having changed one iota, who looked as if they've been in storage or on "Pause" since school ended in June. This morning their wives pushed "Play" and they rejoined the regimen of drop-offs, pick-ups, and playdates.

In the end, I excused myself through the crowd, rather than engage in the parental post mortem conducted on the sidewalk after all the kids have been locked away, once again temporary wards in the City's care. Today I just couldn't face the chit-chat. Nor could I endure the solicitous grilling about my wife's condition. (She's much improved, by the way, and will be home from the hospital tomorrow.) It will be easier this afternoon at dismissal, I've reassured myself. And easier tomorrow and the day thereafter.


Tish said...

Nice looking kids, Brian! Boy, they sure don't look happy to be back at school!

One Wink at a Time said...

I love Ben's expression in the second picture. Priceless.