Yesterday, I got my first whiff of autumn air and, for a moment, night-before-school feelings came rushing through me. The night before school was, for me, such a mixture of joy, dread, fantasy, anxiety, sleeplessness and stomach ache that it stands apart from all other experiences in my life. To go to school was to get away; like going to the movies but it was real, you could go everyday and you didn't have to have a dime.
Of course, like any kid, after the first couple of days my excitement tapered off, especially as the classroom was always roasting and I, allergic, was always in wool. Whatever was available is what we wore and sometimes wool sweaters had to do. But then, one difficult year, grade four I believe, our summer clothes worn through, we had nothing to wear, not even sweaters. The first week of school came and went and we weren't there, a sad and scary time. Until, somehow, my mother came up with a dress for me and one for my sister. Identical, blessed cottons, mine peach, my sister's blue with thin lines of darker peach and blue marking off squares. And, most wonderful of all, white Peter Pan collars! We had missed the first week of school but our entrance the second week was glorious.
The autumn air got me thinking about the peach and blue dresses and then wondering if I had mixed them up. "Was mine truly the peach one or was it the blue?" No matter, I thought. They were both my dresses, equally prized, more precious because we each had one. Like many stories in my life that I value, this happy ending required a tough start.