Editor's note: Vera can't wait for the day when she starts school, but it doesn't go exactly as she expected.
Tomorrow was Vera's first day of school. She was big at last. Vera thought about her school. She had been to the playground many times with her sisters June and Elaine. The next morning Vera woke up early. She quietly washed her face and put on her school dress.
Then she opened her book bag. Everything was there.
Since no one else was up yet, Vera watched the sunrise from her window and waited for the day to begin.
When Vera couldn't wait any longer, she flapped her arms in front of her sisters' beds and shouted, "WAKE UP! It's time for SCHOOL!"
After breakfast Mother handed the girls their lunches. June, Elaine, and Vera headed out the door to take a shortcut through their neighbors' backyard.
She hurried ahead of her sisters. School was just a block away.
But suddenly Vera stopped. In the distance, she could see the school yard. It was full of children -- more children than she had ever seen before.
Elaine and June ran off to meet their friends. June called back to Vera, "Meet us by the buckeye tree after school."
Then Elaine shouted, "Have a great first day, Vera!"
Vera stood under the buckeye tree. She looked at the children in the crowded playground. The giant green doors of the school seemed far away.
Vera sat down on a root to think. She watched a fuzzy caterpillar slowly climb up the tree trunk.
At the sound of the bell, Vera looked up in surprise. The children were all gone and the big green doors were closed.
Vera was late for school.
Vera didn't know what to do. Sad and lonely, she began to walk home.
Mother was busy giving baby Ruthie a bath and didn't hear Vera come in. Vera quietly tiptoed upstairs to her room.
She crawled under her bed to think.
A little while later Mother came in with the noisy vacuum cleaner.
She lifted the edge of the quilt to clean under Vera's bed. "VERA! What are you doing here?"
Vera told her mother what had happened. Her mother held her tightly.
Then Mother put Ruthie in her buggy and they walked to Vera's school.
"This is my daughter Vera," said Mother to the tall man inside. "She was not able to come to school this morning, but she is here now."
"I am happy to meet you, Vera. I am your teacher, Mr. Kline. I was wondering where you were.
"Here is your desk with your name card. Here is a hook for your coat and a cubbyhole for your lunch box. Would you like to paint a picture today?"
"Yes, please," Vera said. She sat down at her desk and took her paint box out of her bag.
Mr. Kline gave her a large piece of manila paper and a small jar of water. A boy sitting next to her smiled in a friendly way. Vera smiled back.
Vera painted a picture of the pretty flowers on Mr. Kline's desk. She was where she was supposed to be -- a big girl in school. She was not afraid anymore.
From VERA'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL by Vera Rosenberry, to be published this month by Henry Holt and Company. Copyright c 1999 by Vera Rosenberry. Used by arrangement with Henry Holt and Company.