“It all happened in 1990! Back then, ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ was currently known as ‘Prince’. Tracey Ullman was entertaining America with songs, sketches, and crudely drawn filler material. And Bart was eagerly awaiting his first day of school.” – Homer Simpson
One of my favorite episodes from the long-running animated sitcom “The Simpsons” is “Lisa’s Sax” from season nine. During the episode, the viewer is taken on a trip down memory lane where they bear witness to not only Lisa being exposed as a truly intellectually gifted child, but little Bart Simpson’s first day of school. With his lunchbox in hand, a bright smile accenting his face, and the belief that this would be one of the best days of his young life, young Bart exclaimed to his parents, “School will be fun!” before running to the awaiting bus.
The scene is still heartwarming until you see how quickly Bart is berated, unjustly critiqued by teachers, broken down and made to look at the world in a different light than he did prior to leaving home. Watching that episode when it first aired (and, subsequently, in later years thanks to syndication and DVD releases), I remembered how it felt to be Bart on that day.
A bright sun rising over the horizon. Dewey grass whisking thanks to ever-changing wind. The sounds of cars going to and from their eventually destinations were rather foreign to me at five years old. Unprepared, I was helped out of bed by my mom at a seemingly impossible hour (around 6 a.m.; an hour that seems almost too late nowadays) for what would be my first day of kindergarten. And just like Bart, I enthusiastically entered the school bus (a bus driven by my neighbor) not truly understanding what was about to happen to me.
My first school was not ten minutes from my home, Mehfoud Elementary. There I encountered the initial problem with the first day of school – having no idea where to go or what to do. Thankfully, several potential teachers waved us toward the back door in hopes of finding out who we were and where we would be placed for our kindergarten duration.
With everyone in their appointed places, we were given a quick rundown of what our schedule would be like until noon arrived and we were free to go. The first day featured embarrassing introductions (one kid couldn’t even understand the question, “What is your name?” until the teacher pulled out a roster sheet and asked him to point at his name), crudely drawn nametags (mine being one of the worst), and a rush to create the perfect construction paper house. This is exactly what I expected from school.
After being escorted to the gymnasium for dismissal preparation, it was then when I realized my day wasn’t truly over. Having two full-time working parents, the privilege of going home after noon wasn’t there. Instead, I would attend Kingdom Preparatory Academy until one of my parents could pick me up (between three and four o’clock). Our (a few kids at Mehfoud also would be coming to KPA, too) chauffer was an interesting, Dr. Seuss-like character who we nicknamed “Bunny Ears” because of his affinity to do the “bunny ears behind a person’s head” prank behind unsuspecting children for harmless laughs; making it a game to see who could bunny ears “Bunny Ears”.
For some reason, the massive structure that was (and still is) Kingdom Repertory Academy set me off. In actuality, KPA was also a functional church – Manna Christian Fellowship. Entering this site, I became overwhelmed with the building’s enormity and, seemingly, the potential that I was about to be a part of something I wouldn’t enjoy without someone there to save me. I broke down, crying for my parents that weren’t there. A few older students did their best to calm my hurting soul, but I refused to be comforted until they let me call my mom. Hearing her voice and knowing that I would be going home after leaving this place in a few hours was enough to dry the river my tears were creating on my new shirt.
The hours quickly passed thanks to naptime and a fun, post-nap game featuring us learning a few A-B-Cs. Turning to a nearby window shortly after three p.m., I saw my mom’s car drive by. Never in my life had I been so happy to see her car. I almost tackled her as she entered the room minutes later. My teacher told my mom about the breakdown while promising tomorrow would be better.
Returning home, I felt just like Bart – crestfallen that my first day of school experience didn’t turn out like I believed it would. Bart would eventually find solace in school through hijinx and unruly actions. I, on the other hand, made friends and used my joy for professional wrestling to make school an enjoyable experience. Though the teacher was right and it did get better as the days and weeks passed, my passion and enthusiasm for going to school was never the same after that first day.