Tag Archives: first day

Prairie Bell(e)s are Ringing

29 Aug

As the school year begins I often get wee bit nostalgic. (Nothing overly sentimental, mind you, but thinking back’s kind of fun, right?) My sister and I are members of a wonderful minority: country school scholars. Yep, we got our educational beginnings in a good ol’ fashioned one room schoolhouse. To be fair, our school had 3 rooms (bathroom, coat room, classroom), but it wasn’t much larger than most middle class living rooms (those of you living in fairytale castles – picture your closet).  And every year at this time we were drooling with school year anticipation.

District 13. Prairie Belle School. Isn't that a sweet name for a school? It was ours.

Usually we would take a late summer pilgrimage to Norfolk (or sometimes Grand Island if we were feeling fancy) to go school shopping. Once laden with new jeans, tennis shoes, pencil boxes, and backpacks (if we were lucky) we patiently twiddled our thumbs until the first day of school. And, oh!, the wait was painful. There is almost nothing to this day that ignites nervous anticipation in my heart like the first day of school. Would I get to hang my coat on a high hook like the wiser students? How would Mrs. Hall arrange the desks? Would there be new contact paper on the class table? What games would be popular at recess? Would it be too hot to wear my new jeans? Would my schoolmates (all 3 to 6 of them) remember me? Had anyone gotten a new hairdo over the summer? What would my classroom job be? SO MANY QUESTIONS! And all would be answered in that one day. I might go so far as to say that the first day of school was the BEST day of school, but jumping to extremes leads me to abandon Halloween, Christmas pageant day, Field Trip day, and Valentine’s day. It’s a close race, folks.

The sleepless nights and elevated heart rates were all worth it on that first day. Armed with a fresh box of Kleenex (usually generic), a bag full of unmarred supplies, and a Care Bear lunch box (or was it Strawberry Shortcake? Smurfs? Christina, help me out here) we would trepidatiously enter that stucco learning fortress. Our school had a wonderful smell. The scents of bromegrass, cornfield, chalk, powdered tempura paint, construction paper, and mouse droppings combined to form a comforting olfactory cocktail that culled academic prowess from our pores. (Don’t question it.) As we slowly inhaled, gazed around our beloved building, and found our seats, we found ourselves – that crumble of a piece that had been missing all summer.

I’m saddened that these rural institutions are largely things of the past. I’m desperate for my own children to have the same experiences of school that were given to Christina and me and a few lucky others. But, as with so many things, their experiences will be different from mine – their memories just as sweet.

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