Thursday, August 28, 2008


When the student is ready, the master appears.

~Buddhist Proverb

HANK: Sigh. With September approaching, and Labor Day, for heaven's sake., I keep thinking I should be out buying new notebooks (after finding out via Linda Katzenberger whether this year the cool ones are spiral bound with three rings, or five rings, or separate folders)

and new penny loafers (after finding out from Sue Marling whether they're supposed to be shiny and with a penny in the slot, or scuffy and with no penny.).

Linda Barnes described this week how she sent her son off to college--another turning point at summer's end.

I remember my first day as a freshman in High School. I was so excited. Here's a picture of me--but this might have the next year. Hard to tell. Post-Vidal Sassoon, obviously, anyway.
I really wanted to wear my new black and white hound's-tooth wool skirt, and my new red crewneck sweater with a white oxford underneath. It was a great outfit.My Momn said I couldn't wear it--with the absurd reason that it was 90 degrees outside. (Indiana in September.)

I insisted. It was my new school outfit, and this was my new school. I was going to wear it, come hell or high water.

What came, was something else. The alarm went off Tuesday morning. But then, I heard another weird sound. My cat, Mrs. Purdy, chose that moment to give birth to kittens. In my closet!

No, that wasn't foreshadowing. It was weird and goopy in there, but my skirt was fine. (The kittens were fine, too. F Scott and Zelda. Another story.)

But I didn't remember to brush my teeth until after I got dressed. And my red sweater soon had
a big slash of white Crest dribbled down the front.

I changed clothes. Mom wins again.

Your first day of high school? College? Can you remember?


  1. First day of college: I had purchased what I thought was the perfect Seven Sisters so-cool outfit, a blue Villager wool skirt and matching sweater, and a tastefully coordinated paisley shirt. Needless to say it was about eighty-five degrees the day we moved into our dorms, hauling trunks and boxes up the stairs, and obviously nobody was paying attention to what we were wearing. I'm not sure I ever wore that outfit again.

    I think I have blotted out high school, although I do remember a striking turquoise blue trenchcoat--with big white polka dots. What were we thinking?

  2. Villager! With gros-grain ribbon. I know I have my circle pin somewhere.

    Polka dots, huh? Probably would be perfect again,now...

  3. Well--we have quite the topic going. Turns out the wonderful Pat Remick
    has a son off to college too! And Mo! Very sweet posts from both of them...
    And I went over there to chat, and had a college memory of my own...

    My mom still hasn't forgiven me. My parents bought me a raft of Villager and Pendleton clothes to go off to college. I selected one heather blue skirt and sweater to keep, wore it every day, and then almost immediately started sellng all the rest of the outfits--and used the money to buy records..

    Mom still talks about "that beautiful red and black plaid jumper.."

  4. I'm sure I worried about the clothes, but I seem to have blanked them out. What I do remember is:

    The main part of the school was on one side of the PE area/athletic fields and was separated from that by a big, chain link fence, with a gate that stayed open during the day and, I guess, got closed later? On the other side of the PE area was the English department (they put our sixties/ex-hippy teachers over there, out of reach!). I remember standing on the quad, in the main area, needing to get to my English class (WANTING to!), and watching the huge crowds of kids merge toward the open gate area. There were thousands (okay, hundreds, but still), and I thought, I'm going to die.

    Didn't obviously, but I still don't remember actually stepping through the gate. :)

  5. Oh, Becky. What a great scene. And you were--how old?

    And thanks Karen Olson! YOur tidbit about your daughter going off to school made me start thinking about the whole first day dilemmas...

  6. The only thing I really remember about the first day of high school was that auditions for the city-wide, multi-school production of The Music Man had been bumped up a week--something we found out when we walked into drama class that day. Auditionees would miss their last three classes, would have a field trip (on the first day? unthinkable!) to another school, where we would sing, do a monologue, and dance.

    Fine. Great. We'd been prepping for these auditions all summer.

    Only thing was, I was wearing a polyester bell-bottom pantsuit (this WAS the 70s) and Kelso earth shoes (ditto) -- fine to sing in, okay to act in, but absolutely horrible for dancing of any kind. Especially the shoes.

    So the whole day was eclipsed by that afternoon's audition and my trying to figure out if I could Shipoopi well enough to make the dancing cut. Barefoot. In bell bottoms.

    And if I would have air enough to sing 'Til There Was You afterward.

  7. On the first day of fourth grade, I insisted on wearing a dress I loved, but had gotten in second grade. It was terribly mod, with a navy jersey skirt bottom, enormous white and navy circles on the bodice, long sleeves, and a jaunty scarf tie. What was my mother thinking, letting me go out wearing a dress two sizes too small?! It was a horrible day--the elastic choked my forearms, the buttonholes gaped, and I couldn't play on the playground because my skirt was waaaay too short.

    It was the same year I stuffed every book, crayon, and paper from my desk in a mesh bag and dragged it to and from school one day to impress the cute bus monitor.

    The round horn-rimmed glasses didn't help.

    Ugh. I have to go meditate on unicorns and rainbows or something now. Is 12:15 too early for wine?

  8. Oh, we do find out such lovely things!

    Susannah, you never cease to amaze. And what a tease! Did you get to play Marion?

    And Laura, imagine how impressed the bus monitor would be NOW!

  9. I did not play Marian, who seemed to be pitched for a first soprano, and I was a second alto--so that was never in the cards.

    But we all had to sing that damn song.

    I did make the dancing cut, which was the good news. Though I saw where one of the dance judges noted that my 'unfortunate choice of outfit made it difficult to see [her] footwork'. Was this a fashion critique or merely the sniff of a frustrated casting judge?

    My first day of high school outfit very nearly sank me. I never wore it, at least in that combination with THOSE SHOES, again.

  10. First day of college...

    I grew up in Los Angeles and went to school in New York City. Considering what a long journey that was and that I made it myself, it’s amazing that I remember virtually nothing about it. Zip. Zilch. Okay, I remember packing. And breaking up with my boyfriend before leaving.

    I remember getting to the corner double in Hewitt Hall at Barnard College and assuming that the person shuffling around in what looked like a housecoat (remember those?) and stuffing clothes into a bureau was my roommate’s mother. Not a good start to a doomed relationship.

    I remember being afraid to meet the girl across the hall. Her name was Linda Laubenstein, and she was a paraplegic. She turned out to be irresistible—acerbic, funny, smart, without a drop of self pity in her. Linda had had polio when she was three and got around in a motorized wheelchair. Since Barnard is connected underground by a maze of tunnels, she could get just about anywhere on her own.

    We became best friends and bridge partners. I roomed with her the next two years. Linda went on to become a hematologist and one of the pioneering doctors in the discovery and treatment of AIDS. Larry Kramer, the great writer and gay activist, wrote a Broadway play (“The Normal Heart”) in which one of the characters is Linda.

    Almost exactly sixteen years ago, Linda died.

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  13. I remember the circle pin!

    And one of the reasons I love being a teacher is there is always a first day of school, even as a grown-up!

  14. Hey sister Liz! And don't tell..but I still have that circle pin. With my initials engraved.

    Thank you Hallie.

    And Susannah, alto is good. In other plays--you'd be the funny cool friend, right? Or my lusted-after role: Ruth in Wonderful Town.

  15. Vera Charles in Auntie Mame? Mame. Mama Rose. Ah, people who can sing and dance. Ahhh.

    First day of school: no idea what I wore. Hand me downs or something home made. I was nearly six years old, but in those days you couldn't go to public school unless you were at least six by the first of September. But I could already read and write and was driving Mom nuts and had younger siblings and really, really wanted to go to school.

    Our neighborhood school wouldn't take me, so Mom loaded me (left younger sibs with Grams) up and took me from school to school. Most of them, I just waited in the office, my school supplies in a satchel in my lap, while Mom worked her way through the functionaries till she was allowed to speak with the principal, who would then refuse her request. At one place, way out in the country, I got as far as the schoolroom, put my supplies in the little cubby under the seat, and was feeling relieved and happy, before someone came to tell me that I couldn't stay.

    Eventually, Mom found a school that would take me, but we would have to pay tuition because I was underage. Now, I turned six before the first of October, but we had to pay the "underage fee" all year.

    That school was in the city, which added bus fare to the cost of my education. But having me out from under foot all day--priceless!

    Other first days, eh, who remembers? Clothes? Eh, no interest. School supplies, that's the deliciousness of September. You betcha.

  16. Oh,Dusty. Yes, yes. Ado Annie. Charlotte in A Little Night Music. Annie Oakley, too, right?

    School supplies. Still love them. I used to play in the supply room of my step-father's law office, stamping the corporation stamp on things, stapling stuff together and swiping legal pads and pencils.
    Putting things in order was my favorite.

  17. When I was in 6th grade, I somehow had two boyfriends, best friends, who sat in the desks behind me. (Funny desks -- like airplanes, with a central bin for your things and then two 'wings' that were the desktops for two students sitting on either side of the central storage space.) Somehow these two boys, Steven and Jerry, contrived to 'like' me, and I 'liked' them back, however that worked, but on the first week of school, they decided it would be fun to put a garter snake in my pencil box and watch the action.

    Well, I shrieked a little, of course; I think it was a proper yike. One does not expect one's colored pencils to slither, but then I picked the stripey fellow up and made much of him, with his tiny, flippy little forked tongue(I LOVED garter snakes, still do). My teacher, Miss Price, made me carry him outside, where I hid him in the bushes. To this day I have a little Proust-madeleine moment when I see or smell new pencils; they always bring little grass snakes to mind.

    Never really knew if I disappointed those boys by not being terrified of the snake, or if it somehow fueled their general approval of me. One of them made me a string of orange & white love beads, afterward (University of Texas Longhorn colors), and the other answered by making a string of blue/grey/white love beads (Dallas Cowboys). I was a fan of neither team.

    However, on Valentine's Day they jointly brought me a box of chocolate covered cherries,which I was very much a fan of, and somehow we maintained this peculiar relationship until we all went to Junior High School and got tossed in with other boys, other girls, and a new campus with the possibility of snakes in every corner.

    My first day of 6th grade was a whole lot better than my first day of 7th. :-/

  18. I'm loving living vicariously through your memories. I don't remember what I wore yesterday much less a zillion years ago.

    I do remember a gray and black (I was a serious little girl) Chinese-looking blouse that I wore as often as my mother let me. It had a zipper that went all the way up to a high Asian collar. I only remember it because there's a pic of me in the 4th grade wearing the damn thing. With my ever present HEADBAND. My sister used to tease me that it held my brains in. After 4th grade it's all a blur.