I never did like to sleep in much. The morning of my first day of school, my heart began to beat fast before I woke up. I opened my eyes. It was still dark. I smiled, rolled out of bed and ran down the hall to get Jamie.
I got to the living room and the whole house was quiet. Jamie hadn’t even lived with us for a week yet and twice I was sternly told not to wake up Micki in the morning. The problem was that Micki and Jamie slept in the same bed. After the first time I woke her up early by knocking on the door, I just went in the second time and shook Jamie to wake him up, but Micki was kind of a light sleeper.
That first school morning, I decided to wait. I turned on the tv quietly because the living room was right outside Jamie’s room. It was so early, all that was on the tv were colored bars and a constant tone. I turned the tv up to just the level where I thought it would wake up Jamie, but not Micki. I sat and watched both the tv and Jamie’s door. I looked at the clock: 4:58.
After two minutes, the tv screen changed. A flag replaced the colored bars. And music began to play. My eyes grew wide, the tv was playing the only adult song I knew the words to. I stood and began to sing The Star Spangled Banner.
I got through the first verse and Jamie stumbled out of his room. “Shh!” he said and pointed toward his room.
“Jamie!” I said, “Are you ready for the first day of school?”
“Shh,” he said again, but he was waking up. “I think I’ll wear the brown corduroys.”
“And I’ll wear my collared shirt!” I only had one shirt with a collar.
We were dressed before any adults were up. I had Jamie check my socks to make sure they matched. Mom came down the hall and checked my shoes to make sure they were on the correct feet.
I grabbed my backpack and put in my 5th grade math book. Micki made a peanut butter and boysenberry jelly sandwich and cut it in half, half for me and half for Jamie. She took a clear plastic bag with a banana and my half of sandwich and put it in a brown paper bag. She wrote “Jimmy” on it and handed it to me. Mom gave me a quarter. “For milk.”
Dad and mom and I and Jamie piled into the ’74 Ford Elite. We drove the 1/2 mile up Mayall St and parked in front of Devonshire St. School. I got out of the car on the same side as Jamie. We held hands and followed mom and dad.
We walked in the main gates of the school and then the secondary gates which separated Kindergarten and first grade from the big kids’ side of school. Jamie peeled off and ran into his room.
I had never seen so many kids. There was a sandbox and a jungle gym and big red rubber balls..
“Why is that kid crying?” I asked.
“He’s just scared.”
I ran and kicked one of the balls toward the crying kid. He took no notice.
“Jimmy,” mom called. I ran over to her. “This is Mrs. Rogers, she will be your teacher.”
I said, “Hello” while looking down at the ground. I smiled a little because I had watched Mr. Rogers show for as long as I could remember and I’d probably get to meet him if his wife was my teacher.
I wanted my parents to leave so I could take off my eyepatch.
“Hi Jimmy,” she said, “let me show you your seat.” I walked in the classroom. “You can set your backpack here, this is your seat.” I put my backpack down. “You should put your lunch over there with the rest of the kids’.”
I walked over to the lunch wall, amazed. There were all sorts of lunchboxes, two Empire Strikes Back lunchboxes, a Pac-Man lunchbox, and some girls’ ones like Strawberry Shortcake and Snow White. I set my brown bag lunch next to them, but I made sure to turn my name toward the wall so that nobody would know it was mine.
Just then, the crying kid walked up, still sniffing. He set his lunchbox down and I almost fell over. He had a Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox! Bo and Luke Duke and the General Lee, all in bright color.
He looked at me with red eyes. “My name is Rupee, do you want to be friends?”
“Do you want to trade lunchboxes?”‘
“Umm, which one is yours?”
My mom called me back over. “Jimmy, your dad and I are going to leave.”
“Bye,” I said and ran back to Rupee while taking off my eyepatch. “So, do you want to trade lunchboxes?”
“Which one is yours? Where did your eyepatch go?”
“I’m only a pirate some of the time. Mine is the special lunchbox over there.” I pointed to the brown bag.
“You should make your eyepatch black. That looks like a plain brown bag.”
“But if we’re friends, we should probably share everything.”
Mrs. Rogers asked us to take our seats. She talked to us about arts and crafts and math and milk time and lunch.
I couldn’t wait for lunch. I looked at all the kids and tried to figure out who had which lunchbox. The girls probably had the girl lunchboxes. I’d probably want to be friends with the boy who had the Pac-Man lunchbox.
The teacher said something and all the kids started moving and standing in a line. I didn’t know why, but I stood too and walked over to where the other kids were. I got in the middle of the line, but the kid behind me said, “I’m taller than you.”
I said, “So,” but the kid moved in front of me. The kid behind him said the same thing and I started moving back. And kept moving back. And back. Finally, I got to the second to last place in line. There was a girl behind me. I stood on my tip-toes, looked at her, and kept my place in line. The smallest boy and second smallest kid in class.
We sat back down and lined up three or four times and then it was milk time and the Kindergarteners and first graders went outside to play together. I found Jamie. “Where’s your patch?”
“I put it in my pocket. We can put it back on before Micki picks us up.”
“This is Cory, my new friend,” Jamie said as he walked away from me to play with the first graders. The bell rang.
We did some basic math and one sound, aaa as in apple. I drew some stick figures playing with the red rubber balls and then Mrs. Rogers said, “Lunch time.”
I ran and grabbed Rupee’s lunchbox. I ran outside and sat under the tree. I opened the lunchbox and found a Twinkie. I opened it and started to eat it when I heard Rupee crying inside. I shoved the rest of the Twinkie in my mouth when Mrs. Rogers came outside with Rupee and a lunch bag that said “Jimmy” on it.
“Jimmy, did you take Rupee’s lunch?”
“We’re sharing,” I said with a mouthful of Twinkie, “he can have anything in my lunch. Except for the sandwich. We’re friends, Rupee can sit next to me.”
Rupee sat down next to me and we put both of our lunches between us. He stopped crying.
“It’s probably only fair,” I said, “because you brought the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox today, I should probably take it home tonight. Don’t worry, you can take my bag home for your lunch tomorrow.”
We finished lunch and the bell rang for us to go home. I met Jamie. “Nice lunchbox,” he said.
“Thanks, I love the Dukes of Hazzard.” I looked down and saw that he had a lunchbox, too. “I like yours, too.”
“Yeah, Empire Strikes Back is ok, but I asked Cory to bring a better one tomorrow.”
I fished the eyepatch out of my pocket. It was folded over and stuck together. “Can you put this back on?” Jamie tried to put the patch back on, but couldn’t get it unstuck. I’ll do it at home with tape.
We climbed into Micki’s Pinto. “How was your first day of school?”
“Great,” we said together.