The first day of school in 1973 dawned clear and hot, and it soon left me feeling uprooted and disconnected from the only world I had ever known.
My family lived in a very small town, a few blocks up the street from the high school. I had attended the same school disctrict from kindergarten through high school. I had just graduated in June. My chosen university did not begin classes until the middle of September, but the local schools opened on the day after Labor Day.
That morning, I got up early, ate breakfast with my dad and saw him off to work. Then I sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking to my mom. Soon the school busses started rolling by and the school-day traffic began to build. All that traffic was an annoyance to my mother, but I had rarely noticed it because the coming of the buses was always a sign for me to head out the door for my daily walk to school. That morning I sat at the table, shredding paper napkins, and feeling disoriented. The buses were going by, and there I was in my pajamas lolly-gagging around, playing with the dog and shooting the breeze with Mom.
I started watching the traffic through the gap in the curtains. Our town was so small that I knew by the numbers on the sides buses what neighborhood the kids were from, and, therefore, the identity of most of the kids on the bus. I recognized most of the cars that went by in between the buses, and knew both the drivers and, by association, their passengers as well. The first-day-of-school excitement and anxiety seemed to permeate the very atmosphere. I could feel it even from my vantage point behind the sheer curtains. It belonged to all those kids going back to school. I didn't feel it, for the first time in thirteen of my eighteen years.
I continued to sit there drinking coffee ... because I had no place to go. I had nothing to do. I didn't belong to a school community for the first time in my life. I had no homeroom, no most-hated-teacher, no band practice to bitch about, no pep-rallys or yearbook meetings. I just sat there and sipped my coffee while the awful reality of being "out of school" slowly dawned on me for the first time. As one of the weird kids who actually loved school, not having a school to belong to came as an almost physical blow.
The first day of school in 1973 was, in many ways, more of a watershed day for me than graduation had been.
Fortunately for me, there was another first day of school waiting for me a couple of weeks later: the first day of the magnificent adventure that was college! (But that's a completelly different story.)