Most of what I pretend to know in life can be traced to a sitcom. If it isn’t Seinfeld, it’s Mary Tyler Moore. If it isn’t Sex in the City, it’s The Brady Bunch.
That’s probably why, when my daughter came home from her first day of high school today and listened wistfully to her brother talking about his first day in junior high, I thought of the Brady Bunch episode when Marcia pretended she was sick on her first day of high school.
Frankly, I was surprised Carol and Mike fell for this but of course, Carol called the doctor, who of course made a house call and diagnosed, with a hearty chuckle, first-day-of-school-itis. You could hardly blame Marcia. A big wheel in junior high, she was now attending a high school where apparently she was the only student from her entire district and thus knew no one.
I’d be sick, too.
When her parents made her go the next day, her brother Greg said he’d introduce her to his cool, football player friends who all looked 35, right down to the receding hairlines. But Marcia was suitably impressed and trying too hard to be mature, she embarrassed Greg by telling one of his friends that she looked forward to the “intellectual stimulation” of high school.
(Note: While I am embarrassed that I remember this right down to the exact dialogue, I am also secretly proud and would be willing to bet big money that I am right.)
Anyway, Greg comes home humiliated at his wacky sister’s behavior – or maybe it’s her bell bottoms. Kidding, of course. Marcia was wearing a tasteful skirt and pumps. And he urges her to be herself, which she agrees to do, going back the following day and signing up for all eight clubs in the school until she finally tells her parents she has to be herself, so she’s sticking with the rugby club. Kidding again. She drops everything but ceramics as I recall.
I’ll have to remember to ask Amanda if her high school has a ceramics club and tell her to check the bulletin board.
You would have thought Greg would’ve been a little more patient with his sister, given his first day of high school a couple seasons earlier resulted in him demanding that his father give up his den and make it into a mod bachelor pad. Greg, too, was trying to be too mature, translating to his outfit of fringed vest, headband and shades, and he, too, was laughed off campus.
I find these stories to be instructive and am sure my kids will take some important lessons from them as they transition to their new schools.
And in the absence of a sitcom, I can always reflect on my own childhood, which often was funnier than The Brady Bunch.
Aside from the kid on the kindergarten bus who threw up out the window, I remember one other first day — coincidently my first day of high school — when I called my good friend Bari the night before to ask what she was going to wear.
This was of critical importance because designer jeans were just coming into vogue and it would be a little daring to wear them on the first day of school when all of our mothers would be horrified that we weren’t more dressed up. Bari assured me that the jeans would be saved for the second day of school, so I wore my powder-blue polyester pants with the narrow glittery belt and shimmery polyester blouse with the seascape design. Stunning, huh?
Except that Bari, in an apparent last-minute conference call with every girl from our junior high, elected to go with the Gloria Vanderbilt’s, thus leaving me humiliated. Really needed texting.
Despite all of this, I stuck with Bari the following day and when it was time to find our bus home, I decided that I would wait for her, even though she had a tenth-period class and I was finished after ninth. It was either that or board the wrong bus and end up having dinner in Morton Grove (not my suburb).
Trying to be casual, I passed by her class to make sure she was there and that I wouldn’t miss her when she came out. Then, with nothing else to do and still concerned I might miss her, I passed by her class again. Over the next 50 minutes, I would circle the first floor of the school and pass by the open door of her classroom approximately 43 more times until every kid as well as the teacher became acutely aware of me and giggled every time I walked by (naturally, I did not know this until Bari came out afterward and told me).
I am thinking that if my children are at all anxious over these next few days and weeks that these stories might calm their nerves and let them know that we’ve all been there and that eventually we all adjust and move on.
And maybe if they’re lucky, they won’t remember it in vivid detail 35 years from now.