My weird thought is this: when a parent’s eldest or only child starts secondary school, they are flooded with their own memories of starting secondary school and this is involuntary. At least, this is what happened to me just under three weeks ago when my son started Adams Grammar School as a little, squeaky clean Year 7.
His first week (which was only three days long as he started on a Wednesday) was somewhat fraught. He missed the bus home twice, he lost (and found) his coat, he lost (and found) his pencil case, and he lost (and eventually found a week later) his school jumper. He was very tired that week. I suspect that if I’d told him he didn’t have to go back (i.e. get up at 6.30am) on the Monday following Week One he would have accepted it (although possibly changed his mind by Tuesday). He had lots of new books given to him. He had homework. He talked of quirky teachers, break times, lunch, corridors, stairs, PE lessons, German words, French words, tutor group time, protractors, rulers, rubbers, pens, books, and future friends.
So far (it is now Week Three) he has arrived home every day at about 5.20pm bringing with him a wave of fresh autumn air. Every day he has flumped on the sofa next to me, rosy cheeked and full of stories of his lessons and anecdotes. He has brought a rush of cold air but it is refreshing. It is the highlight of my day to spend five minutes before he removes his coat and shoes and puts his bag down talking with him about stuff. He insists on spending this time with me. I love it. I hope it lasts.
There are many events, conversations, colours and objects that a long time ago I had put into the ‘remembered but no longer needed’ box. These are things about my first few weeks of secondary school (which happened in September 1983). These things have now resurfaced with a boom. Not all of my ‘first’ memories correspond with his ‘first’ experiences (as we have / are going through this 32 years apart).
These memories include: covering books with wallpaper; new stationery; new potential friends from other primary schools (many far more clever and street-wise than me); good, bad and very bad teachers; queuing up for dinners; daddy long legs on the outside walls; home economics (my Little Red Riding Hood basket of ingredients); maths on the top floor; stairs, bags; PE with showers; and homework. When I think of those first weeks I also think of Danger Mouse, He-Man, tiredness, smelly socks, huddling by the gas fire, conkers, the wonders of the art department, doodling, hunger, independence, friends, nasty words, pushing (to get to the vending machine), lockers, wet towels, hockey socks, banging boots against the PE block wall, avoiding, hiding, and being silly (very silly).
I hope that my son’s memories stay with him, perhaps they will become dormant as new experiences replace existing ones. But I am sure they will resurface when his eldest child starts school. This sort of nostalgia is very touching and precious I think. This experience has reminded me that I went through what he is going through and it is helping me to help him. Perhaps that is why the mind plays this trick. It has been fun reliving those days again.
And I also hope that my son isn’t as silly as I was at that age. I was very good at detention.