I’ll tell you what I remember about my first day of 7th grade.
We moved the summer between 6th and 7th grades, so my brother and I went to stay with our dad in Spokane for most of the season while my mom and stepdad house-hunted, packed up our old house, moved, and got us registered and ready for school. That summer of 1981 I spent watching the Royal Wedding, reading every Judy Blume and VC Andrews book ever written by that time, playing with the random kids in my dad’s apartment building, and making a plan for how I would one day buy my own Papasan chair, because that would make me a real adult.
We also spent HOURS and DAYS jean shopping. My only jeans up until that point were the store brand ones from JC Penney. My stepdad was a store manager, so our jean choices – just like our top choices, underwear choices, coat choices, shoe choices – were whatever JC Penney carried. All that I wanted as a new junior high student at a new school was a pair of jeans that weren’t purchased from Penneys. My dad took me everywhere – and we ran into the problem many pre-teen girls did at that time – jeans just didn’t fit. I was too long for kids, but too narrow for juniors. But we were determined and we found a pair of wide-legged, dark wash jeans from an upscale department store that would be perfect for school.
So after reading Flowers In The Attic for the 14th time, and playing spin the bottle with the boys and girls I met that summer-knowing I would never see them again, my brother and I flew back to Indiana the day before school was to start. My mom had bought our lunchboxes, backpacks, and pencil cases. I had my new jeans and a few new tops. But we lost my all important – “HOW DO I FEATHER MY HAIR NOW, MOTHER??”- curling iron somewhere in the move, and I had to show-up to my first day at a new JUNIOR HIGH with NOT-feathered hair. It turns out my lack of feathering was the least of my problems that day, as I noticed all of the kids wearing straight-legged, light wash jeans. I believe my sweet mom stayed up all night that first day ripping the seams out of my new jeans, cutting off fabric, sewing them back with a straight leg and washing the ever loving crap out of them to make them a lighter wash. And she also bought me a few more pairs of jeans from JC Penney.
I look back to that week 34 years ago and I still vividly see the girl I was. I’m still her in many ways – afraid to buy the wrong jeans, scared of new places, still unable to have perfectly feathered hair, but with parents and a family that is there to lean on, rip apart some seams, and mend things up when needed.
Eloise started her 7th grade year at a new school last week. I’m not going to even try to sugar coat how crappy her first morning was…and she did not even have to worry about having the wrong jeans. But she was worried about her hair, and making new friends, and liking her teachers. I cried a little after drop-off too. Were we doing the right thing – changing schools now, when being almost 13 is already hard enough. But by day three she was excited about her classes, she wasn’t complaining about her uniform, and she had met some kids who asked her to join them at lunch. (I can’t say this to my kids enough – “ALWAYS BE THE “SCOOPER” PERSON, OKAY!” Always be the one to scoop in the new kids and ask them to sit with you at lunch.) By day five she said she was fine going to the new school, and knew she would still keep the friends from her old school. She said she was okay.
I promised to always have her back and be her soft landing. And I even brought her my box of VC Andrews books that I saved all of these years. She picked a few up, read a few pages, and tossed them back with a laugh and a no thank you. Not surprising as she has much better taste than I ever did. She doesn’t even want a Papasan chair.