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My First Day of Middle School

My First Day of Middle School
by Priscilla Anne Fick
I remember it like it was yesterday. January 20th, 1986.
My very first day at school. A day filled with excitement, enthusiasm, photographs, the unknown and of course, tearful parents.
After I was pristinely dressed in my floral red and white uniform, with my little brown cardboard-like suitcase, my mom took me to her office to show me off to her boss. She was beaming. Her boss, fondly known to all as Uncle Pete gave me some money "for the tuck shop, deary." Like I was supposed to even know what the tuck shop was. Some photos were taken at Mom's office and because I didn't want to be late, we eventually set off. In retrospect, I think if I hadn't nagged to get going, Mom would probably have had me home-schooled.
Both parents and I set out to Park City Station in central Johannesburg to catch the train to Doornfontein where my school, I.H. Harris Primary, was. It was a warm Monday morning and the school grounds were abuzz with the chatter of children talking about their summer holidays and playing tag.
In one corner I noticed a group of rather timid looking children, all perfectly groomed in their uniforms, like I myself was and realized that they were probably also sailors in the first-day-of-school-boat. What I couldn't comprehend is why they were either red-faced from crying or too scared to say "boo" to a goose. If anyone should have been bawling her big, brown eyes out, it should have been me. After all, I was an only child, living in the caretaker's flat of the office block my mother worked in, so I had no interaction with other children whatsoever. (This wasn't entirely a negative thing, because by the time the first day of school dawned, I was able to already read, write and do some arithmetic). What baffled my little First Grade brain even more is why some parents, including my own, were crying.
After all, this was it. The first step into "Big School". A moment, while daunting, which should be filled with so much excitement and pride for all involved. My parents took photo after photo. And, as each photo was taken, Mom's cries became louder and louder, until I eventually told her, in a rather no-nonsense, businesslike tone to, "Please go home, you are embarrassing me."
Eventually Dad managed to get me out of Mom's vice-grip hug and dragged her, still wailing, through the school gates. I smiled and waved a quick goodbye and proceeded to find a Prefect to tell me where I needed to be. At the time I misread the badge to read "Perfect", and kept asking, "Perfect what line do I need to stand in? I'm in the class that has the yellow curtain in the window." The Perfect Prefect showed me what was what and before the bell rang for line-up I'd already made some friends.
My teacher Mrs. Von Nielen, was a tallish lady with short brown hair and a smile which lit up the room. She was friendly, and as all little First Graders think, very pretty and oh-so-clever.
We all spent most of the mornign learning one another's names, and many group activities in the name of social interaction. By the time said social interaction activities were over, I had two cousins, Dean and Earl, fighting over who was going to be my boyfriend!
The bell rang, signalling first break. Mrs. Von Nielen had us all unpack our lunch before going to the playground. Some children didn't have lunch and those of us that did were asked to share, which I did. We then said grace, thanking God for our lunch, shared or otherwise, and were let loose on the playground. I remember sitting against a bright orange pole watching some other children play tag, whilst eating my lunch with my two new friends, Michelle and Loreadonna.
After break we also learnt to write our names (something which I had already been able to do for over a year). But still, it was special, because our very pretty, oh-so-clever teacher, gave us each a brand new book with our names already written inside for us to copy. It took me a long while to write my name, not only because it is long, but because I wanted it to be perfect. Trait of a Virgo child. I was so proud of it. My name. Neat. Tidy. Perfect.
The end-of-day-bell rang, much to my disappointment. After all, there was so much to learn and do. I didn't want to leave. I was having fun! But alas, before I could protest, my parents were there, Mom was standing in the doorway, eyes brimming with tears. So I opted to save myself yet another embarrassing Broadway performance and go home - chattering their ears off about what a wonderful, exciting, awe-inspiring day I had had.