My first day of school is tomorrow. I’m at a new school and don’t know people and I’m scared. Mom says don’t be because everyone always likes me.
FIRST-GRADE ‘FRAIDY CAT
DEAR ‘FRAIDY CAT:
My first day of kindergarten scared me. I thought it would be an awful lot like going to kiddy prison.
Namely, because they had schedules for everything. Schedules for eating. Schedules for recess. Schedules for the commode.
I cried when my mother walked me to the door.
“Please don’t make me go,” said I.
“You’re gonna be fine,” she said. “And when you look back on this day, you’ll feel silly.”
She was right. I feel silly.
School was big fun. Our teacher played piano and sang. She read stories. She taught us to use the john on command. I made my first paper Valentine. I tasted my first swig of Elmer’s.
Try not to worry because you’ll have a lot of scary firsts in life, just like me.
For example: many years later, Mama drove me to my first date—sort of. I was twelve.
Her name was Anne. She had naturally curly hair, and I liked her more than hand-cut onion rings.
I rode in Mother’s car, nervous. I wore my Sunday best, and I’d used so much Alberto V05 I resembled a Cupie doll whose hair had been dipped in mayhaw jelly and lit on fire.
I was trembling when we arrived at Anne’s birthday party.
“You’re gonna be okay,” my mother said. “One day, you’ll look back and feel silly about this.”
Then, I hit adulthood. I lived on my own. My mother got sick. Very sick. Doctors gave her some bleak news.
She wasted away into a bag of bones. She lost so much weight, her neck looked leaner than any woman’s ought to. Her cheeks got hollow, her eyes sunk backward.
I visited her in Atlanta. We ate breakfast together. Doctors were going to install a plastic port near her collarbone. She told me she was nervous.
I can count on one elbow how many times my mother has been nervous.
I hugged her, standing in the kitchen, and tried not to break her ribs. She felt about as light as a beachball. She cried. So did I.
“You’re a strong woman,” I told her. “One day, we’ll look back and feel silly about how scared we are now.”
That was long ago. My mother recovered. She lives a good life now. She takes walks with her dog, she sings while she dusts the house, she has the love of a good man.
But do you want to know something?
While I write this, I’m sitting in a parking lot. I’m about to speak to a large group of people. It might be the biggest crowd I’ve ever spoken to.
I won’t lie, my knees are shaky. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this nervous.
I guess there are some things you never truly grow out of. Because before I wrote this, I called my mother.
Good luck at school today.
‘FRAIDY CAT SR.