The first day of second grade, the second (or third, if one counts kindergarten, and why not?) first day, must carry with it the assurance of the pro – the I’ve been there, done that, swagger of the confident – those who have trod these paths before.
Thus do I imagine my grandson’s second first day, so different than his first first day.
There are still the rituals – the nice outfit, the pictures, the reminder that it’s a first day, the happy send off. But now they’re just that – rituals, so that what last year was a seismic shift in reality signified by the big send-off is now the ritual observation of the repeated pattern of life.
Both are wonderful and something is gained in both. But I remember years ago in seminary, when a friend learned I was reading Henri Nouwen for the first time.
“How I envy you,” Erin said and there really was envy in her voice.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re reading him for the first time. You’re just beginning, with all those wonderful books still before you. How I wish I could go back and be there again.”
It was an extraordinary compliment to Nouwen, but also simply to the gift of learning.
So as off he went on yesterday, I wonder whether my wee boy of a grandson walked with confidence. I wonder whether he’s glad to know his way around. And I wonder whether, somewhere in his soul, there is a tiny wistfulness for 1st grade – for all the times of meeting ideas and ways of doing things for the first time.
He’s an old hand now, our 2nd grader and I wonder if he envies the 1st graders that it’s their first time.