“Don’t say that word,” I told the three little boys who were shouting profanities at the chalkboard. The rest of my 4th graders were busily engaged in our classroom activity but there are always a few Ringo Jacks in the group…
“What does it mean?” asked Petr.
For a moment I saw my mom’s big brown eyes softly blinking at me and I heard her telling 10-year old Mary something like, “It’s just not a pretty word.”
Ah, to handle life’s difficult questions with the grace and elegance of my mother.
Unfortunately, I am not my mother.
The green gate, bedazzled with large drops of dew, creaked open and I shuffled into the back entrance of the school lot wrapped loosely in my obnoxiously yellow windbreaker, eating a cold pizza bun from the bakery by the bus stop.
“Ahoj holky!” I called to the teachers standing by the back door – “Hey girls!” Three of them were standing in the misty morning air for their smoke break. It was the week before school started so they don’t have to hide from the children behind the building.
They burst into welcoming ‘hello’s and bright smiles.
“Máš trochu snídani, Mary?” called one of the ladies – “Do you have a little breakfast?”
I giggled bashfully – eating and walking, a very unCzech habit, is something I haven’t been able to quit yet.
Nodding and grinning, I joined their circle and we caught up on each other’s summers briefly before heading inside together.
There. That’s it. That’s how my school year began.
All the stress of late August – all the worries about how hard this year would be, all the anxiety of going through what I went through last year – all washed away entirely, completely and without residue.
It literally took less than a minute to realize this was going to be a new year, a good year; but as the last few weeks have unfolded, I’m understanding more and more how wonderful this year could actually be.