Last week on Monday, the two older brothers were tormenting their sister all day long. "You have to go to school tomorrow!" they threw at her whenever she happened past them. "And we don't."
"You have to go the next day!" she retorted repeatedly. "You are going back, too. It's not just me!"
"Yea," they agreed. "But we get one more day than you do."
Their mood was the same, all of them, all around town, at least according to the moms: a sense of doom and unhappiness at "losing their freedom".
The first day of school came first for the youngest, a sixth-grader starting her final year at elementary school. This is a long road here in Brattleboro: kindergarten through sixth grade in the same building. Seven years in the same place brings an easiness in familiarity... and some eagerness to move on, too. This seems especially true if you are the youngest who has been dragged to countless middle school and high school events because of your siblings.
"I'm taking you in the first day," I reminded her as she headed to bed.
"Mom's got to take your picture, you know," her brothers sing-songed behind her. "First day of school. With the teacher. And we're going to be sleeping in when you are getting up!" With their needling done (for the moment), they returned to their normal environment, in front of the glow of their Xboxes as they indulge in their favorite activity. ("You know it's social, really, Mom. We're playing with other people when we are on-line like this. It's not just "dumb video games", like you say," they tell me.)
The next morning dawned bright and warm, just like most every day of this summer-without-rain. There was no perceivable difference, no sudden shifting to fall that would make this transition seem more correct. It was essentially the same as the day before, right down to her brothers insisting on staying in their beds longer than her. Everything around her still cried out, "Summer!"
She glared at me when I strongly suggested changing shirts so her shirt matched her pants. She snapped at me when I reminded her to feed the dogs and the fish. She argued with me when I insisted she put away the dishes in the dishwasher. She stomped past me to get her things together and walk to the car.
We drove the seven minutes down to Western Avenue, where we met the backup of cars, all heading to school that morning. The parking lot was packed, and she slumped further in the backseat as we searched for where to park.
We joined the masses of parents and kids as they wound through the halls. "I don't need you to take my picture, mom," she complained yet again. "I don't want you to take anything. mo-om, really, just don't do this. Seriously."
"How hard is it to pose for a photograph?" I asked her. "I always take a photo, every year, at least until high school when your brothers started driving themselves."
"But other kids will look at me," she complained, drawing more attention to herself with her whining, than my cell phone hidden in my pocket. "This is so embarrassing."
I assured her it was just fine, and she would live through it. Her teacher was happy to oblige and posed quickly, smiling broadly and joking. The whole photo-taking process took literally seconds, and I (rather happily) left her with her friends.
When she arrived home at the end of the day, I met her with a cautious question. "How was the first day?"
She thought for a second. "OK. "
"Just OK?" I prompted. "That's it?"
"Well, after just the first hour or two, it felt like we had never really left.
"It just felt ... normal."
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at email@example.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.