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Return to school evokes bittersweet emotions


Today is the big day for Carroll County public school students, as they return to the classrooms for another year of readin', writin' and 'rithmetic.

There was no mistaking it, as children of all ages could be seen standing on corners waiting for the bus to come.

It is always amazing to me to watch the metamorphosis that takes place with children as the school year goes from beginning to end.

On the first day, their faces perk with smiles and excitement. But as the year goes by, the bright looks give way to the question, "How many more days of school?"

It really doesn't seem all that long ago when I walked hand in hand with a friend to elementary school, or hopped on the bus to middle school (junior high to many of us) and eventually drove myself to high school.

I remember a different kind of excitement when I went to college -- maybe it was the thrill of being on my own for the first time.

But I think the memories that I have of those first days in elementary school hold the most special place in my heart.

The night before the first day of each one of my elementary school years found me wound as tight as a top. The anticipation was almost too much to take.

Sleep was not on the agenda, as I lay awake most of the night asking myself those important questions -- "What new outfit should I wear tomorrow?" "Will any of my friends from last year be in my class this year?" and "Who will be my teacher?"

Surely it was a thrill waiting for that glorious morning, but there was also a certain amount of sadness in recognizing that first day of school.

Walking through the doors of each one of my schools signified not only a beginning, but also an end to a wonderful summer vacation.

Even now, as an adult, I find many of those same feelings still apply.

Watching my children prepare for another school year has conjured up different kinds of emotions.

For example, there is joy in knowing that there will be a noticeable decline in the number of fights over Barbie dolls and who sits in the front seat of the car.

But, at the same time, I know I will miss their laughter that resounds throughout the day, the trips to the park and the pool, and the simple pleasure of just being able to spend time together.

Am I an old softie or what?

Curiously enough, in conversations with several friends, I found they had similar emotions about their children's return to the classroom.

One friend, who lives in Finksburg and prefers to remain anonymous, said summer was simply not long enough for her husband and four children.

Even though two of her school-age children were excited about going back to school, she felt the summer was not as relaxing as it could have been for the family.

Another friend, the mother of three daughters, said she is ready for the school year to begin.

"I love my children dearly, and I will definitely miss them, but they need to get back to school and start learning," said Donna Wood, who has a daughter in second grade and a daughter in kindergarten. "They need some kind of structure."

"Bittersweet" was the key word used by yet another friend describing her feelings about this particular first day of school.

"I must say I feel bittersweet," said Donna Cross, who has a son in middle school and a daughter in elementary. "On one hand, you're anxious for them to go back, and on the other hand you hate to see the summer end."

I think we all tend to be a bit sad when we say goodbye to the summer. Maybe it's because summer seems to symbolize the time of year when our lifestyles are a little more carefree.

For whatever reason, the first day of school seems to symbolize the unofficial end to summer.

As one who always looks on the bright side, I remind families everywhere that the summer of 1995 is just a few seasons away.

That might seem like a lifetime for the younger folks. But for us older folks, the time will fly and before we know it we'll be scratching our heads wondering how to pack nine suitcases into a vehicle that can hold only five.

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