First Day of School Memories

schoolhouse1Do you have memories of your very first day of school? I think it was the most exciting day of my 4, almost 5-year-old life. My birthday is in September, but they let me begin at age 4 anyway, as I was nearly the right age.

Andy, my older brother, had begun school two years before, so I absolutely knew that school was a wonderful thing. I had accompanied mom and my baby sister to school to watch him in various school programs and events, and my mind was alert to all the exciting things that went on there. I distinctly recall the thrill of seeing a kindergarten skit on good oral hygiene where one of my brother’s fellow students got to wear a giant tooth outfit, while another child, wielding an enormous play toothbrush, proceeded to brush her. It didn’t get more exciting than that!

My first day of school, I remember being up very early. It was a source of tremendous frustration that I had been assigned to afternoon kindergarten rather than morning. It delayed the advent of my first day by several hours. My next memory is putting on the dress mom had laid out for me. Back then, you didn’t show up at school in shorts and a t-shirt. I had a green dress with buttons that were shiny red apples, white socks and black patent leather shoes. Mom had curled my hair with curlers the night before so I had curly hair for that all important first day.

The next big moment was getting on the little school bus that pulled up in front of our house. It was one of those small buses that only holds a few children. It amazes me how fearless I was that day. I had seen Andy get on the bus countless times, I guess, so I figured it was safe. The driver of the bus was also our Lutheran school’s secretary, so I knew she was safe as well. On the bus was our neighbor girl, Julie. She was another familiar face, so the bus was a happy place.

I arrived safely in my classroom, heart pounding away. I can still smell the smell of that room if I try. The wooden parquet floor was shiny that day and all the small chairs had chair covers on the backs with different animals embroidered on them. I wondered which animal would be on mine. There were round yellow name tags on a bulletin board, and I was told to find my name. For the first time, my confidence wavered.

In the rush of the other children and the excitement, all the names and letters looked alike suddenly. I was crushed. If I failed at this first big assignment of finding my name tag, would I be a kindergarten failure? Before I knew it, big tears were cascading. At that moment, a grandmotherly woman put her arm around me and asked me my name. She helped find the right tag and pinned it on my dress. I was so relieved. I recognized the nice lady, Miss Weber. She was my teacher, and with her help, the sun returned and my first day of kindergarten was under way.

The big, bright classroom had a play store with “real” play groceries and shopping carts. It even had a play cash register and play money so we could shop. I was enchanted. There was doll furniture and doll clothes and all sorts of puzzles to conquer. But the highlight of the kindergarten day was getting to watch a TV program called Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. My parents didn’t have a TV at that time, so this was all new to me. The program fairchildwas captivating. While I’m not certain what this says about me, my favorite puppet character was Lady Elaine Fairchild. I liked her spunk and forthrightness. I suppose a psychologist would say she was a “deep influence” on me. (Hmmmm.)

I loved every single moment of school. We had a puppet stage, goldfish (just like Mr. Rogers), story time with all kinds of exciting books, and there were lots of children to get to know. I went to school with many of them up through 6th grade. Those days actually were formative. My belief that books were wonderful was cemented, I learned all the basics academically, and had it confirmed in my mind that learning was an exciting thing.

Some lessons in kindergarten, while not as pleasant, were also valuable. I learned about bullying. One hostile child left her deep teeth marks on my arm when I wouldn’t give her my place in line at the slide on the playground. The world, I learned, wasn’t always such a happy place. I also saw one boy named Billy kick at the teacher when he was corrected. Never had I witnessed such an audacious display of rebellion. At home, I told mom that I was “astonished with amazement” at the naughty Billy. (I wonder what ever became of him?!)

This time of year I always get nostalgic for school days. I see the big bins of school supplies and remember those happy times, the highlight of which was my getting to play one of Chicken Little’s chicks for the play at kindergarten graduation. I had a feathery yellow outfit and an orange paper beak held on by a nylon stocking tied around my head. It was the beginning, and end, of my acting career, but my family assured me that I had done a credible impression of Chicken Little’s offspring.

I am thankful for Mt. Olive school and the great start I received there. One memory that stands out more than any other was Miss Weber sitting at a little organ (it was an old pump organ) which we all stood around and sang songs like, “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb”, “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus”, and “My Best Friend is Jesus.” I also remember the kindly, elderly Pastor Berner who conducted the chapel services in the church. The Christian influence was felt by the children, and that part of my education, without a doubt, was the most important of all!

10 thoughts on “First Day of School Memories

  1. Lisa K says:

    Ingrid – I LOVE your school memories! It brought back my kindergarten days – I loved the “playhouse” – it was so small only a few children could play in it at one time. It was such a special treat I waited every day for my name to be called. I too remember bullies and loving books right from the start!
    Speaking of back to school – and Obama’s plan to address the schools – I told my son if they are required to write about Obama’s speech he should be honest, and give details to clarify his position. Frankly I’m afraid for him to speak out against Obama in any way – I think his teacher last year did not like him because he was one of only two children who did not vote for Obama in the class election! Oh well, what do I expect from the Chicago Public School system!
    I also wanted to comment on something else you may have experienced with your sons. I was just shopping for new gym shoes with my 12 year old son and almost every pair of shoes has skeleton/skulls on them!! How unbelievable is that? My son does not want skulls on his clothing or shoes yet that is what’s being pushed on the tween boys!

  2. Joanne says:

    I loved reading your memories of the first day of school as my two daughters are only a year or so younger than you and it brought back memories for me of a more innocent time than what my grandchildren face. We,too, like Lisa K were worried about the Obama speech on Tuesday as my 2 grandsons were also in the minority last year in the class election and their teachers were also Obama supporters. But I am praising the Lord as I received an e-mail from my daughter stating that my grandsons’ school has decided not to let the students watch the president’ s speech because of the controversy. Thank you Heavenly Father!

  3. Kris W. says:

    Dear Ing,
    Although for me it was quite sometime ago when I went
    to kindergarten, you brought back memories that are vivid
    in my mind. Our teachers were certainly treasures, no
    matter what grade they taught. In reading your story, I’m
    stopping a moment to thank the Lord for all those wonder-
    ful school days……when everything was fresh and innocent.
    Thanks Ing…….Kris

  4. Jessica Fales says:

    You brought back memories of my yellow Sesame Street rain slicker. It had Big Bird and Grover on one pocket and Oscar on the other and those great metal over clasp closures. I had a great pair of blue rain boots. I loved it when it rained or snowed in kindergarten because I knew I could where them. Some of my best memories are walking home from the bus stop up the gravel road in the rain in that rain gear. 🙂


  5. Mrs. U says:

    I LOOOOOVE the way you have with words!! Seriously! I can smell freshly sharpened pencils after reading this!!!!

    Please tell me you have a book deal coming???? Something in the works?? Pretty please?? Miss Read would be proud! 🙂


  6. Deepak says:

    Lovely story. My memories flash back in my mind of the first days of my school life. Wish i have such experience again.

  7. Judi says:

    Ingrid, I loved reading this too. It brought back a flood of memories of my own first day of school in 1960. We had just recently moved to Milwaukee, from Wheaton, Illinois, and I was so excited to finally have my turn to go to school with my two older brothers. Backtracking a bit, I can still picture my oldest brother, first of our bunch to venture out into that exciting world, walking to school alone in the Glen Elyn countryside with his old hand-me-down lunchbox, newly painted bright, shiny red. (I think it had belonged to my mom’s younger brother.) I was so envious. The next year we lived in Wheaton, and I was amazed when my next older brother escaped school at recess to return home for the first couple days, until my parents had a firm talk with him and told him under no circumstance was he to do it again. He also grew to love the place. And now, the next year, it was my turn, but in a new school. I was so excited. I already loved books, and was convinced that I had learned to read on my own with a Dick and Jane book that I’d chosen at the library that summer. On that sunny day, because my mom was at home with my youngest brother, my two older brothers had been instructed to take me to my classroom before they lined up outside to enter when the bell rang in the usual way. True to form, my oldest brother delegated the task of depositing me in my classroom to our other brother! and he dutifully took me to the open door where two teachers were chatting, knocked, and then left me! One of the teachers came to me and asked what I wanted. I told her I had come to school. And then I learned that the kindergardeners were not starting that day, and I broke down in tears–from the disappointment of that let-down, and also from the terror of How was I going to get home?!!! But she took good care of me, called home, and somehow I got home. I don’t remember the details of how that happened. Only that my grandma and grandpa from Chicago had arrived unexpectedly (at least to me) for a visit, so I got to see them and play with my youngest brother outside in our tiny backyard that had an old-fashioned perennial garden in it. When I finally learned to really read–I’m assuming I hadn’t really figured it out on my own–Oh, my! I became a bookworm. Two of my favorite places to be are still a library or a bookstore.

  8. Lisa Green Kentala says:

    Judi – your memories are great! I too started kindergarten in 1960 – in Oak Park, Illinois. I was the oldest of four and my mom was home with 2 little ones and another on the way. I was in the afternoon class and sometimes my mom almost forgot to send me! I took my time walking the 3 blocks, playing, dawdling, etc. Until I got to the “busy” street and saw NO crossing guard! I just stood there crying. At some point a lady in a car stopped and offered me a ride (can you believe I took it??) She gave me a kleenex and brought me inside the kindergarten. Amazing how the world has changed! (I also was a huge bookworm – still am!)

  9. Ingrid Schlueter says:

    Ah Lisa, I’m glad you got the right ride there! It’s a big scary world for kindergartners sometimes. You brought back another memory when I was running to school once with white knee socks when I fell and ended up ruining my socks in a puddle that was muddy. I didn’t know what to do as my mom was leaving for the store as I was taking off for afternoon kindergarten. I ran home to the empty house crying, but our neighbor lady (everybody should have a Mrs. Schlitz on their block) saw me and cleaned me up and gave me a pair of her daughter Carol’s socks. I went back to school much comforted.

  10. Lisa Green Kentala says:

    It’s funny how these long ago small memories are so imprinted on our brains. I love your socks story – it’s a perfect tragedy to a five year old. To this day I cannot believe I got in a stranger’s car! There was a moment after I got in the car that I knew I shouldn’t, but was frozen. The lady seemed so kind and sympathetic – she was dressed up in a nice suit so I thought she must not have children LOL

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