There are many milestones in a person’s life. If you think about it, our lives are made up of “firsts” — our first step, our first words and our first tooth. Our parents carefully document them in our baby books for us to remember.
As kids returned to the classroom last week, I couldn’t help but think of my first day of school back in 1981; I was 5 years old. I have to admit I really don’t remember that day specifically but I do have some memories locked away in the back of my mind from that landmark year. It’s bittersweet really since my grade school no longer exists.
I remember that I really liked my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Mattan, who I was blessed to have again in second grade. I remember show and tell only because I took a ceramic cat that my mom made and it broke when one of my classmates dropped it. My teacher felt so bad that she took it and glued it back together for me. I can’t think of too many teachers who would have gone that extra mile for one of her students. I think I still might have that kitten tucked away somewhere with my old toys.
When I was in eighth grade, one of my junior high teachers showed me and my classmates two books that Mrs. Mattan created for the morning and afternoon kindergarten classes back in 1981. The books, which were tied together with yarn, showcased each one of her students. There was a polaroid picture of each boy and girl with his and her phone number and what each one liked at the time.
The books were raffled off and I was lucky enough to get the book I was in. I recently pulled the book out of my closet and looked at all of those smiling faces. As I glossed over the pages, only five other kids beside myself graduated together from eighth grade. The others left long before moving away to attend other schools. I remember my friends, Lisa, Jada, Aaron and Ryan who moved away. I remember hating to see them go.
Years later while I was attending Clarke College in Dubuque I happened to run into one of those old faces. As I was sitting in the computer lab, I noticed this girl who looked really familiar. As she was heading out the door, she stopped and asked me, “Are you Angie Bicker? Do you remember me from grade school?” I said, “Sure.” I couldn’t believe it was really her. Ironically, she was attending the neighboring college, Loras. Unfortunately, I never saw Jada after that.
As I turned through the pages, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to my classmates. Did they get married? Did they have families of their own? What did they do with their lives? Where are they living now? Unfortunately, one of those little kids in that book passed away a couple of years ago and I happened to get his obituary at the Clinton Herald. It was unnerving to say the least.
I also remember kindergarten because I was sick with pneumonia for several weeks and couldn’t go to school. Needless to say I got a little stir crazy after awhile. However, I looked forward to every afternoon because Grandma Naftzger would come over to my house and sit with me. Grandma always made my afternoons a little brighter because she would bake Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. To this day, I still love eating them mostly because it reminds me of her.
As I look back at myself in this book — a little blonde-haired girl with pigtails wearing a Strawberry Shortcake shirt — I can’t but wonder where the time went. My school days really don’t seem that long ago. School is huge part of our lives. I was in school from 1981 to 1998 — that’s a long time. I was blessed with a lot of good teachers who made learning fun and gave me the encouragement I needed to succeed.
There are a lot of “firsts” in our lives — we should embrace them and make all of them count.
Angie Bicker is the Clinton Herald’s Lifestyle Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.