Day One

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August 23rd, 2001
Dear parents, August 25th will be the first day of the new school year! In Mrs. Brown’s first grade class this year, we will be learning all about contractions, the solar system, and multiple digit addition! Over the course of the year, we will be going on field trips to places like the Children’s Discovery Museum and Fowler Creek Park, where the students can get hands on experience to enhance their classroom learning. Stapled to this letter is the class schedule, so make sure your child is not late to class in the morning and has somebody to pick him/her up at 2:30 in the afternoon. If your child prefers, there are lunch items for sale each day, but otherwise, make sure he/she brings a packed lunch every day. Thank you, and I can’t wait to meet my new students!

Mrs. Brown

On the top shelf of the closet sat new red leather Mary Janes that I saved for special occasions. I had worn them once last Halloween as part of a witch costume, in a time when I understood witches to be pointy hats and broomsticks rather than Protestant women burned at the stake in the 1500s. At the time, I had not known it a possibility to purchase actual costumes, and went out for the annual sugar harvest with a flimsy flea-market witch’s hat, the red doll shoes, and the old broom in the garage that my mommy handed to me in a last minute attempt to make my costume at least somewhat identifiable.
On August 25th, 2001, I put the shoes on in the early morning as the only item that would protect me from the hurricane that would be elementary school. At precisely 7:12, mommy wiped the last bit of cereal from my face and performed the last check. Lunch? Pencil? Eraser? Unfortunately, being ready and being ready were two different things.

Standing with mommy on the grass at the bus stop a block away from my house, condensation from the forest-colored slivers caused various dead insects and bits of leaf to become stuck to my shoes, cluttering the glossy surface I had originally been so keen on preserving. In the end, this fight became neglected for the things on my mind demanded all attention away from the things underneath my feet. I did not understand how that moment could have already arrived, and the days before were a mere series of shapes as if they never occurred.

In the end, I was not sure as to whether I was more scared of what was to come or what I was leaving behind, both fears with great merits. After kindergarten, there were so many people who go to school with you. There was a lot of homework, and you had to learn to do harder math, and more science, and there were people who were bigger than you, and there were people you did not know, and snacks you did not like.

There loomed larger mountains with darker shadows, but also so much to leave behind. No more using the smaller playground on the grass. Now you would have to use the larger sets underlaid with tanbark, sharp and prickly shards of wood waiting to catch you when you fall off of the swings (which will happen at one point or another). There was no more being home for lunch, there was no more being dropped off by your mommy, and there was no more holding hands, and no more crying allowed during school hours. And suddenly, I realized that the bus would take me farther than just down the street, and much, much farther than where I was supposed to be.

Slowly, other people began to arrive at the bus stop. They were mostly veterans who had already been in first grade and did not seem to find the prospect of going to school as terrifying as I did. Some of them stood on the curb alone, mindlessly balancing on the edge, blank eyes betraying a wandering mind. Others recognized friends and atomized into chattering groups with a lot of hip-jutting and reflection-checking. A few proceeded to sit unknowingly on the grass, leaping up too late to prevent the cold they felt from leaving stains in an embarrassing place. I stood holding hands with mommy, trying to slow down the time before I would be released into a jungle of unknown terrors. No other parents had arrived, so at least I was friends with the biggest person on scene. Until the yellow monstrosity materializes around the corner, I had nothing to be afraid of. Because until then, I was safe.

A low roaring began around the street, growing in intensity as the autumn wind whipped my skin. I felt it coming before actually seeing the thing turn precariously in the narrow street to engulf me in shadow, the smell of gasoline, and a fear that began to inflate at the sheer fact that what I dreaded was, in fact, a reality. The other kids had already begun to congregate around the entrance, forming an unorganized bulk that slowly but effectively trickled into the bus with no real order. At some point or another, I would have to climb into the bus also. My time was running out as the mass of sand continued to filter through the neck of the hourglass, joining the others that had already gotten there.

“Have fun on your first day of first grade!” I did not know what to do, and then I knew what to do but I did not want to do it, and then I wanted to explain that I had my lunch and my pencil and my eraser but I was not ready but then what good would that do?
The last person climbed the mountainous stairs, and, throwing me into a tumult of uncertainty and the unknown, mommy let go.

March 21st, 2014
Congratulations, Lillian!

Let me welcome you on the behalf of University of California, Berkeley. You have been selected for the admission in the course of Bioengineering for the fall semester of 2014. Your academic profile talks about your commitment and interest in academics. We are sure you will prove your mettle and not let our confidence down.

Enclosed herewith your letter, you will find an enrollment form for campus residence. You have to submit both the forms by 25 August 2014 to the Student Advisor.

Cal welcomes you and wishes you all the best for your career.

Yours truly,

Dana Clark

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