Don’t Even Think of It!

The first day of school is a day of rare energy, bordering on frenzy, and yesterday was no exception. The Parent Imperfect arose a couple of minutes before the alarm was due to go off at 6AM, hoping that Ms. Liz might sleep an extra hour or so. He prepared himself to have to haul Vince out of the sack, as he had done so many times the previous year. To his surprise, the eighth grader rolled over and got up without even a second call.

“Didn’t I ask you to get me up a little bit early on the first day?”

The PI pinched himself to make sure this was real, and then headed down to start with breakfast and lunch. Not about to miss hugging her son on the first day, Liz passed on the extra sleep and warmly wished Vince well. At 6:40, the PI pulled out of the driveway into what looked at that moment like a very nice day. V. will be on the bus from Forest Hills most days, but the PI was happy to drive on Day One.

“No, I don’t want to go back to school, but I can’t wait to see all of my friends.”

By the time they reached Hyde Square the sky was darkening noticeably,  looking for all the world like a storm was blowing in. It was barely 7AM when the PI squeezed to the curb between charter buses and dropped off his cargo.

“Thanks for the ride, Dad, but don’t even think of getting out of the car.”

Vince disembarked and immediately walked into the famous twin soccer playing prodigies from West Roxbury moving toward their first day ever at the nation’s oldest public school. Sporting fresh buzz-cuts, the two of them had that same look of barely-contained terror that had filled Vince’s eyes only the year before.  He was strangely relaxed this year.

It was still 40 minutes before the dreaded bell, but many students seemed to share Vince’s desire to be there early to find their way to homeroom and greet friends not seen since June.

By the time the PI got back to the house, Ms. Connie was up, dressed and had broken the evening fast. She was at least as excited as her brother about starting school.

Incredibly, the darkening clouds had brought with them a full-fledged thunderstorm, which was right overhead at the instant Vince needed to be seated in homeroom at 7:40AM. In Boston, early morning thunderstorms are rarer than changes in the name on the Mayor’s office door. What was the Cosmos saying this time, by making kids wait for their buses under thunder and lightning? All that was missing was the golf-ball-sized hailstones.

Even though Connie was returning to a well-known place, the first day was destined to be a bit bumpy. According to the BPS, she was still on the list for the Advanced Work Class at the Curley School. Whatever bureaucratic earthquake needed to happen for her to get on the official list for the Hernández had not yet happened. That meant that she did not have a card for the right bus, was not on the school lunch list (no great tragedy) and was likely not to be on the list for either of the fourth grade classes at RHS.

Liz drove Ms. C to school and, since Liz would be heading downtown to work from school,  the PI followed in the second car. How’s that for a family conscious of its carbon footprint?

When La Principal called the auditorium to order, exactly one of the 13 buses bringing children to school had shown up. The place was, nonetheless, full. In its effort to lower busing costs, the BPS had re-organized all of the bus routes resulting in even more than the usual first day chaos. Seeing danger on the horizon, parents who could bring their kids to school did so.

La Principal raised her hands to quiet the tumult and welcomed everyone to a new school year,  just as she had each of the previous ten years that the PI had been there for the opening. She seemed particularly happy to announce that the median school math score on the MCAS had risen by 9 points. Given her health challenges, her performance was nothing less than inspiring. The only indication that she wasn’t quite herself was her announcement that she would not be announcing the several new staff and interns present in the room.

Connie’s teacher came to Liz and the PI and said with a lot of sincerity that he was excited to have the girl in his homeroom, and wasted no time assuring them that he would be sure that she would be challenged from Day One. When he called out his class’s names, however, C. was not on the list. he quickly realized the mistake and walked up to Connie and invited her into her new classroom.

Nearly all of her closest friends were in the class, which was a great relief to her. The PI and Liz accompanied the group upstairs, where both J and I gave them all a short talk about what it meant to make the move to the school’s top floor, most of which is occupied by the giants of the middle school. Then they all marched into the classroom and took seats in groups of 4, Connie sitting with three boys to the PI’s surprise.

The PI made his way down the stairs and past the main office. The crowd gathered there convinced him that this was not the time to try to sort out the bus situation. He headed outside where, at 9:05AM, the crossing guard and one of the kindergarten teachers were still waiting for 5 buses that had not yet arrived. He got into his car and took a deep breath before heading up school street.

The bell had rung and one more year of wrestling with the BPS was underway. The thunderstorm had passed and the rain had slowed to a drizzle, but he was quite sure that the fun and games had only just begun.

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