Let me preface this by saying that I love my children. I.love.my.children.
I also love the First Day of School. Public education is one of the most glorious instutions in this great country of ours. I respect and admire people that homeschool. It's wonderful that we have choices. However, for the safety of my children, I could never do it.
The First Day of School became a holiday of sorts in my family way back when my brothers and I were kids. Like most families in the 60s, my mother was a stay-at-home-mom. She loved being a homemaker. She loved us kids. But after weeks and weeks of summer heat and close proximity with kids -- her own and the rest of the neighborhood -- she celebrated when that marvelous day finally arrived: The First Day of School.
In jubilation, she would run to the hall closet where the American flag was kept at the ready for every national holiday. In a flourish of enthusiasm she would unfurl it and stick it in its bracket by the front door. "It's time to hang out the flag, she'd say, one of her favorite expressions for marking an occasion of great significance.
"That's disrespectful to the American flag," we would protest. "It's unconstitutional."
To which she recited, from her handbook on Care and Use of the American Flag, "The flag is hung in times of patriotism and celebration." We couldn't argue with her. My mother was as patriotic as the day is long.
For years, we'd hurry out the door on the First Day of School, past Old Glory and my mother on the front porch, waving good-bye -- a bit too eagerly I always thought. Eventually, our next door neighbor joined in when her kids became school-aged. In confusion one year, another neighbor hung his flag, too, probably scratching his head trying to figure out what the holiday was.
Now, as a mother myself, I understand my mother's thinking. In fact, the tradition has spread to my generation. On the first day of school as I bid my kids good-bye, the flag is flapping in the breeze. Two blocks down from me, my cousin has her flag flying when her four kids rush off to catch the first bus of the season. Even my Australian sister-in-law displays the stars and stripes on her day of emancipation.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. A mother's joy on the First Day of School is one of them. Don't let those tears at the kindergarten door fool you. By next year and the years that follow, most mothers are whooping with glee