“First Day of School”

by Dr. Terry Macaluso

First days of school are a combination of dread, fear, and acute excitement.  The objects of dread, fear and excitement are different for everyone.  When I was in elementary school, my focus was entirely on crayons.

I got a new box of 64 (somebody out there is old enough to get that reference, yes?) every year—the one with the sharpener in the back of the box.

On my first day of 5th grade I arrived at school— laden with all the stuff kids bring to school on day one—and I left a bag containing my new crayons (and my lunch) hidden in some shrubbery outside the main entrance where I had been deposited by my mother.  It would take only a minute or two to drop off the bulk of the load, and then I would come back for the bag.

Inside I was distracted—seeing friends I hadn’t seen all summer and generally getting back into the social swing of things.  It wasn’t until much later in the morning that I remembered the bag.  Right before lunch I dashed outside to grab it. It wasn’t there.  It wasn’t anywhere.

I walked home in the afternoons, and on this particular day I decided to take the “forbidden route”—the one that passed the railroad tracks and the home of the “Egg Lady.” She was so named because she kept chickens and sold eggs, but she never spoke and always shooed kids off her property.  Hers was the house we dared each other to visit on Halloween.

Walking past the ramshackle house, I caught a glimpse of my Minnie Mouse lunchbox sitting…open on the porch. A light was on in the kitchen and I could see the old woman sitting at a table intently focused on…something.

I stopped to observe, and after a few seconds she looked up and saw me.  I froze.  Almost immediately, she was standing on the front porch holding up a large piece of paper on which she had made a drawing, with my crayons.

She was smiling proudly.

Faith in humanity…restored.