Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Writers Remember

Today our three boys started school. As a mom, I did the usual things such as cut the tags off their new shoes and laced them up, wrote their names in backpacks and on lunch pails, and took photos of their first morning.

For kids, their first day includes completely different rituals. They meet up with friends they didn't see all summer, jockey for position within their new classes, and size up their teachers.

A few months back I attended a writer's day, where Libba Bray was one of the speakers. Something she said stuck with me: as writers, we should remember what it was like when we were younger. What was it like on the first day of 5th, 8th, or 12th grade?

I remember scuff-free shoes, new pee-chee folders and sharp pencils. I remember hideous haircuts, short boys and tall girls. I remember friends who had gotten new braces over the summer, and girls who had increased cup sizes in just a couple of months.

Memories can be exciting, embarrassing, or painful. But when we remember, and pour those emotions on the page, it makes us better writers.

What memories jump out at you from first days of school? Please share the good, the bad, and the ugly!

photo credit: google images

37 comments:

  1. I remember being the new kid in Spanish class sophomore year. I met the other new girl & that became our bond until we lost touch in college. What a scary day!
    Patti

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  2. I agree that in order to write for children and teens, we need to remember ourselves at those ages. It probably makes us more understanding parents too.

    I recall agonizing over the outfit, hoping I'd be considered cooler, prettier. Each year, I'd organize all my school supplies, vowing I'd be a better student. I think I always slid by October. And I never got cooler, but I did get less awkward as the years went by.

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  3. I remember waiting eagerly to be able to wear my new Doc Martens. And standing on the front porch with a too-big backpack, giving a cheesy grin for pictures. :)

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  4. My very first memory of my first day of school was kindergarten. My mother walked me hand in hand, she stood at the gate and watched as I went in with my class. Somehow, I was in the wrong line and ended up in first grade. I was so mad when they made me go to my real class. I had already made friends.

    And shame on me, I never did take a picture of my baby when she started kindergarten this year.

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  5. Peeing all over my first grade floor:/
    Not my finest moment.

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  6. I remember the oddly strong smell of peanut butter in the cafeteria and the sound of new sneakers squeaking in the hallway:-)

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  7. The first day was always about seeing what cute boys were in your class' and who you would stare at all year, or sememster. haha

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  8. I remember pinstriped jeans, hot September afternoons, and giggling at recess. Hope your boys have a wonderful day!

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  9. I remember falling over a very large bin in the art room. I can't even blame it on age. I was twelve at the time. Shows how clumsy I am. :)

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  10. LOVE THIS!

    My son started Jr high this year, and it brought so much back for me. The feeling of being alone in a crowd, the worry there would be no one in my class that I knew, mixed with the hope that this could be a fresh start for me. Crazy feelings, but ones I will carry with me forever.


    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  11. vomiting all over my second grade teacher...

    A zit on my nose the day I started high school...

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  12. Slightly unrelated, but I just have to share this story. Since I didn't grow up in the US I missed a few things that are normal to American-raised children. One thing I missed were pee-chee folders.

    So, the other day I was shopping through my 3rd grader's supplies list. My husband had copied the list out of the newspaper. I got to #2 and he'd written pee-chee. I'm thinking, "What does this say?" I stood in Staples, looking at the writing in all different directions, thinking how hard it was to be married to a son of a doctor whose hand writing was indiciperable. I kept asking my daughter, "Look at this. Tell me, what does it look like to you? To me it looks like pee-chee. Pee-chee, ha ha ha!" Because I had NO CLUE what a pee-chee was. It just sounded like some nonsense word.

    When we got home, I asked the darling hubby about #2 on the list. When he said it was pee-chee, I almost peed my pants laughing. "ARE YOU SERIOUS? IT REALLY IS PEE-CHEE? WHAT THE HECK IS PEE-CHEE?" I thought of all the people in the store who had heard me grumbling and trying to figure out his writing, and the whole time I had it RIGHT. And they were probably thinking, "Seriously? This poor chick has no clue what a pee-chee is?"

    Ahhh, you've gotta love those humbling moments.

    Amy

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  13. I'll never forget my very first day of school with my Strawberry Shortcake lunch box. I'm talking the metal kind with matching thermos. Loved that thing.

    The smell of the school and strawberry milk pops into my head, too.

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  14. I just started back to school at the end of August. Ohh, my first day? I don't remember great details but I remember thinking "This school is HUGE and there are way too many people. I'll never find my classes" and now I know where mostly everything is so I laugh at such a memory.

    And in response to your comment on my blog... Yes, I promise to post the cover, as I have done in the past with other covers. Glad to hear there's more people than just me excited about it. lol

    Happy writing,
    Lindsey

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  15. I always looked forward to checking out the new boys in my class and to the school dance schedule. And I'll never forget the wonderful aromas coming from the cafeteria. Those were the days!

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  16. I was always the shy girl - so sure no one would want to waste their time speaking with me. I was always so nervous until I found one of my friends to be with.

    At my current school, all of the teachers go out 20 minutes before the first bell. We make sure no one is just standing by themselves feeling lost and alone - we go talk with them. And because kids always come up to chat with us, the kid who was standing alone is soon part of a group.

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  17. I remember buying lunch for 30c, taking bites out of the same apple with friends, walking home the long way and buying 3 chocolate fish for 30c. A serve of chips also cost 30c. I was a shy kid but everyone knew me because I was good at sports. I wish I could start again. I'd kiss more girls.

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  18. Wow. First day ever. Sitting on the floor of the hall, which was old wooden floorboards. Bruce Kelly wetting himself and us all watching the wee running along the floor between the boards.
    Sorry if I've lowered the tone.... it's my most vivid memory! :)

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  19. Julie...I remember being the new kid in class: a small town girl awed by the big city, nervous and shy.

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  20. I loved all the new things that I would have at the start of a school year; from the brand new pencilcase, to the smell of new books, to shiny new folders...simple pleasures!

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  21. In junior high 7-9th I was terrified of getting lost and then getting in trouble. I was scared of not knocking on the bathroom and getting in trouble by the girls smoking. I was scared period of the smokers, even though I never had any problems with them. And I remember just that feeling of - I wish I were home.

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  22. I love this post Julie. I totally remember first days...especially the year my mom got me their 1 1/2 tooearly by mistake..no one was there but me. I was terrified!

    BTW, I left somethig for you on my blog...http://christinefonseca.wordpress.com/

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  23. I remember getting new school supplies every year. The crayons, pencils, erasers, a brand new looseleaf notebook and filling it with wide ruled paper.

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  24. In grade school and junior high I have many fond memories of new clothes, shoes and connectiong with friends. High school not so much.

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  25. the smells... new books, crayons, play dough... And aren't smells so evocative? Good stuff~

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  26. I remember crying my heart out the first day of kindergarten.
    I also remember the "big thing" was to take a piece of paper towel, pour a puddle of Elmer's glue on it and leave it in your desk overnight. It hardened but was still gummy. We were all fascinated by it. LOL

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  27. Always a little excitement. I was one of those weird kids who liked school.

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  28. Since I write from a young girl's POV so often, you'd think I'd have all these memories swarming - and I'm sure I do, but they become caught up in the great black hole of my brain!

    however, some do stand out. One though, is my younger brother, who we lost to a heart attack so very young - it was his first day of school and as we walked to school, which was right around the corner, he became so scared of his first ever day of school that he climbed a tree! I kept trying to coax him out of that tree-poor little thing *laughing* - but it's one of my fondest memories of my little brother!

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  29. I LOVE all these memories! Keep 'em coming!

    A couple of your memories sparked another of mine: meeting a new friend on the first day of second grade. All these decades later, we're still best friends.

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  30. I'm intrigued by how many have said they were shy, etc, maybe that's the observer, introvert etc in us that makes us that bit different. I can remember crying bitterly into my older cousin's skirt I was so scared on my first day. But as I settled in, I loved school,like Alex J Cavanaugh, quite the weirdo. I always adored shopping for new stuff, the latest in stationery etc. Still haven't lost that - now I'm a teacher, I still get to buy loads of yummy pens and paper...great post Julie.

    Oh, in the next coupla days, I'm giving you an award on my blog...maybe I'll get it done today..:)

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  31. L'Aussie, it is true that many of us can be a bit shy. I tend to hide behind the skirts of very outgoing friends. Not sure how that happens, but it does! Thanks for stopping by, and for the award.

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  32. You really don't want to know how my very first day of school went - was not nice and was not pretty! Thanks for your recent visit to my blog. I love yours - you are a talented writer!

    Jane

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  33. I remember wearing clothes that were way too hot for the season, just because they were my new, back-to-school clothes.

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  34. I remember thinking there was nothing but possibilities - every year. Now that I think back on it, that was probably a little weird! ;)

    But also I had my school supplies ultra-organized and had tried on about 10 different outfits to choose my 'first day' outfit.

    I like your blog! :)

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  35. Ah the first day of school… It was always torturous. Would someone be wearing the same outfit you had on? Would your clothes be in style, your haircut? What had your crush been up to all summer? I would say, eagles in the stomach instead of butterflies!

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  36. great post, julie -- and am amazed you remember things like which kids got braces or increased cup sizes --- so funny!!

    my memories of school have always been the smell of new books...and how much i hated having to ride the school bus -- one hour each way!

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