First Day of Middle School: One Mom’s pathetic stakeout

Originally posted Sept. 1, 2009

School started last Wednesday, for my kids. I made sure Noah and Holly had their new backpacks and school supplies, but they had their own strategies for getting ready for the big day.

The issue of who would be in whose class became their primary concern a couple of weeks ago when they learned who their teachers would be. How each of them set about the task of divining this critical information was fascinating, in that their methods seemed to follow some sort of gender-specific stereotype.

Holly and her fellow third-grade girlfriends burned up the phone lines with a flurry of breathless telephone calls while Noah took off on his bike armed with the school directory and pedaled from house to house to find out if anyone he knew from fifth grade would be in his class his first year of Middle School.

“I won’t know anyone,” he worried, before setting off.

But then we went to check out his new school locker on registration day and he met someone. He didn’t quite get her name that day, but she’s awfully cute, and her locker is right next to his.

Noah feigned indifference, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

This revelation alone might have been reason enough for Noah to sweat bullets his first day of middle school, but I’m sure that his efforts at cracking the code on his new locker combination didn’t help any (Is that why six boxes of Kleenex were on the school-supply list?). As it turned out, Noah’s new neighbor, apparently adept at mastering locker combinations, came in quite handy Wednesday. Bless her.


Noah was to catch the bus a block from our house at 7:32 a.m. and he jogged down the sidewalk, eager to get on with it. It was raining, and I’d managed to make sure he had an umbrella with him in my groggy, awake way-too-early-for-my-taste state, but he smiled and waved at me through the porch door as he sprinted down the steps before I could catch up with him and get him to actually use the darn thing.

He knew what he had to do.

I figured I could sort of keep an eye on him from our front yard, but didn’t want Noah to see me leaning over our picket fence to spy on him – lest he be humiliated – so I tried to stay out of sight behind a stand of dying tiger lilies sagging in the rain at the corner of our yard. I must have looked pitiful too, as my husband, allegedly out for a walk with our confused dog, kindly brought me an umbrella on their way to the dog’s favorite spot for doing his business.

Trouble was, Todd had brought me a huge, rainbow-colored umbrella, hardly appropriate for my stake-out. (And come on, Todd was being pathetic too, using the poor, now soggy dog for an excuse to loiter on the sidewalk in sight of the bus stop. I guess his reason was sort of legitimate, but still.)

I was pleased to see that Noah had finally opened his umbrella, but winced as I watched him sit down on his backpack on the wet sidewalk. His sandwich would be smushed. When he finally stood up I decided, from my position a block away, that the foggy grayness of the drizzly morning combined with the image of the solitary figure bearing a black umbrella under an old, towering maple would make an interesting photo. I zoomed in and snapped away. It did make a beautiful photo. I took a few more but then wondered why Noah was still alone at his bus stop. I looked at my watch. Had he missed the bus? Was he at the wrong corner? Concerned, I risked blowing my cover and walked half way to the bus stop.

“Hey, Noah, where is everybody?” I finally called out. He turned around and I realized that the person I’d been photographing wasn’t even Noah but another student – a beautiful girl with long hair, in fact – who probably wondered why a strange, practically pajama-clad woman with bed-head and an enormous rainbow umbrella was mistaking her for a boy.

I really need to get my eyes checked.

I issued a weak apology and looked around for my kid. I spotted Noah standing several feet away from her on the steps of an old church, laughing with a few other new sixth-grade boys – and no, there wasn’t an umbrella in sight.

But they were ready.

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