Back to School

"My mother loved to tell the story of my first day of preschool. Stepping on the bus, I turned to her, blew a kiss, and said, 'Don't look back, Mummy.' Of course I meant that I shouldn't look back, but the symbolism wasn't wasted on my mother, who recounted the story for years with a chuckle about her only child, it's a new chapter in the life of all involved. People sent me numerous reminiscences about their first day:

"• Serve a big breakfast that will symbolically fortify the kids for ten months of scholarship.

"• Bring out a special plate that is used when your child starts school, earns a good grade, or achieves a particular academic or extracurricular goal. When your child arrives home that first day, make his snack more festive; serve it with flowers or turn it into a tea party. Let's face it — most days our lives are nothing like Leave It to Beaver. After-school snacks might usually consist of string cheese and juice in the car while on the way to soccer practice or ballet. But on this day, make it something to look forward to. In the years to come, you can wrap the special plate and give it to your child when he or she marries or has a child.

"• Start tucking notes into your child's lunch box. So many women wrote that they did this all through their children's school years, especially on days when their child had a big test or was troubled by something. 'I remember on my last day of high school,' wrote Kaarin Lenstrom-Sheedy. 'Mom put in a note that said how sad she was that this was the last lunch note she'd be writing me.'

They always looked back before turning the corner, for their mother was always at the window to nod and smile, and wave her hand at them. Somehow it seemed as if they couldn't have got through the day without that, for whatever their mood might be, the last glimpse of that motherly face was sure to affect them like sunshine.
Louisa May Alcott, from Little Women