The question was simple enough: “Are you excited about starting kindergarten?”
“Yes, I’m excited,” was my daughter’s reply, said with the same amount of enthusiasm a mail carrier might show when asked if he or she likes dogs.
Audree’s tone surprised me, since the kid had spent the last several weeks getting ready for the big day and had always seemed enthusiastic.
But I soon realized why that enthusiasm had not been shared in this case. She was simply deep in thought while having a different conversation with her 4 1/2-year-old cousin.
The topic? Rain.
“What if it rained ants?!” Audree exclaimed, eliciting a giggle from her cousin.
“What if it rained water?” she continued. When I explained to her that rain IS water, she proceeded to give further explanation.
“I’m talking about that other type of water.” I took that to mean the chemically-treated kind that comes out of our faucets. I can’t remember the extent of the curriculum from my kindergarten days, but perhaps “what is rain?” is now part of the kindergarten lesson plans.
Driving to school Monday morning, I was struck with a feeling of de-ja-vu.
“Deep breaths,” I told my wife, echoing words I had spoken five-and-a-half years earlier at nearly the exact same spot, enroute to the hospital where Audree was born. I started to voice my thoughts on the similarities between the two situations – the mix of excitement and nervousness, then for the new life about to join the family, now for the beginning of her formal education – but I was quickly cut off. My wife was already struggling to hold back the tears, and she didn’t need me to open the floodgates for both of us.
Audree? No chance of tears there.
“I’m so excited about starting kindergarten!” she said, this time with the excitement level of waking up on Christmas morning ready to tear into presents.
As she had done when we walked into school during Meet the Teacher night, she took notice of the flagpole. In the earlier encounter, she had noted that the tall, empty flagpole looked scary. I told her that when school started, there would be flags at the top. Sure enough, she noticed the United States and Texas flags hanging at ease in the still morning air.
“Look, Daddy! Flags!” she said excitedly.
“They were just saving them for a special occasion,” I told her.
“Like the first day of school?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
The drop-off went well. There might have been some moist eyes on the parts of Mom and Dad, but nothing we’ll admit to.
From the moment Audree took her seat in the car, it was clear that the first day of kindergarten was a big success.
“Momma, do you know what?”
“I never got to go to the principal’s office and get kicked out.”
Always a good thing to hear on the first day, am I right?
She explained that she learned about being respectful, kind and patient with others.
Her favorite part of the day? Playing outside, of course.
“Did you make any friends?” her mom asked.
“No, I forgot.”
That’s OK, I reassured her, it’s just the first day, and everyone is just getting to know each other.
I jokingly asked her if she had decided on her major in college yet. I never got a response. “Undecided” it is, I suppose.
Since it was such a monumental day, it seemed to call for something special for dinner. What could be more special to a kindergartner than a McDonald’s Happy Meal?
As we waited at the drive-through window, Audree continued to tell us about her day at a volume I’m sure diners inside the restaurant could hear. My wife turned to the young man handing us our food and said, “It was her first day of kindergarten.”
“It was my first day of my senior year,” was his reply.
That’s when it hit me. In 12 years, Audree will be starting her senior year of high school. Twelve years – the same amount of time my wife and I have been married. The same amount of time that I’ve worked for the Wise County Messenger.
Twelve years. It’s not that long, really.
So I’ll do my best to cherish every moment and to help Audree through her school journey. Maybe one day she’ll be able to explain to me some of life’s great mysteries, such as how it truly is possible to rain ants.
Have a first day story you’d like to share with us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this column online at WCMessenger.com.