First Day

by jkatejohnston

4 September 2013

Dear Max,

The first day of first grade. He held both our hands as we walked through the big main gates for the first time (not the little side gate that goes to the kinder yard). As we passed the kindergarteners I said, “They look so small,” and Teresa told Enzo that when we were little people said, “Kindergarten baby! Born in the gravy!” But he can never ever say anything like that.

“It doesn’t even make sense,” I said. “Gravy?”

Luckily, he wasn’t paying much attention to us.

Then we were out in the big kids’ playground and off he went by himself on slow feet at first then breaking into a run as he saw Jonah and pretty soon Cuixli was there too, and the three of them stuck close together. Now it was their turn to look small. At one point I saw Enzo and Jonah holding hands.

A bell rang—some kind of big cow bell—and the classes started to line up on big colored dots painted on the pavement. Enzo’s class was last to get it together. One boy was wiping away tears. They straggled into line. Enzo toed his dot. And then they all went in.

As we walked back to the car past the kinder yard we saw Mrs. Korte at the end of the line of new kindergarteners, ushering along a girl who was bend double and trembling all over with silent tears. Born in the gravy. Mrs. Korte waved cheerfully. Such a pro.

Teresa drove me to work. I don’t remember what we said. We were somewhere between elation and puzzlement. What now?

We’d been asked at the parent meeting not to question the kids about every single thing they were doing. We were given a handout about what was planned so that we’d know what they were doing, more or less, and then it was politely suggested that we shut up and let them start the conversation. So when I got home from work I picked up Enzo and just stared into his face, smiling and expectant, like, well? He said nothing. At dinner Teresa said, “Is there anything you want to tell us about school? You don’t have to.”


When he was taking his bath I said, “So, did you poop at school?”

“No. Because of my shyness. I’m a mountain lion.”

“Did you poop when you got home?”

“I didn’t go all day.” Then we both gave him a big talk about how he has to go when he has to go, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and kids do it all day long, and the teachers are used to it, that’s what they’re there for. He finally agreed that if he has to go really, really, really bad, he will go at school.

We reviewed his lunch. I packed a roast beef sandwich on white bread as requested, a small Tupperware of Doritos, a browned butter oatmeal cookie, cucumbers with toasted salted sesame seeds, a peach and some mango juice. He ate everything except the sandwich and the peach.

Today: teriyaki chicken, heart-shaped sushi rice balls with salted sesame seeds that I’m going to make as soon as I finish writing this, a packet of soy sauce pilfered from Panda Express that I have to make sure he knows how to open by himself (they’re a total pain even for grownups), kefir, carrot sticks and a plum.

No cookie. No Doritos.