That first morning drive

(I wanted to write this back in August, but, well, my time and ability to non-work write has become limited with all the freelancing I've been doing. This is a recollection of 30 years ... and two months ... ago.)

My mom drove me to school that first morning. My sisters were old enough to stay home by themselves for an hour, and I'm guessing my dad was working. The sun was shining, and it was one of those pretty Chicago summer mornings the city really doesn't get enough credit for (spring mornings were nice, too). Seven years earlier, for one month after we moved, my father drove me into my final weeks of first grade at my what became a far-away school. I'm now just realizing the parallel between those mornings in 1977 and that first, and only that first morning.

I was 13 years old (still a few months away from 14) and starting high school. Notre Dame High School for Boys (it sounds even worse typing it out -- thankfully, the school is now Notre Dame College Prep) was located in Niles, about five miles from our house. I took the bus home a lot for a couple years, but luckily, never took the bus in -- between carpools and friends with cars, I got a ride in every day. But that first morning, it was just Mom and I.

I don't remember the collared shirt I wore that first day of orientation. I know I was wearing corduroys -- jeans were against the dress code. My parents had taken me to buy a few pairs before school started, and I can remember a nervous sales girl trying to sell us more clothes and Dad snapping at her that  we had what we needed. I am sure I was wearing basketball shoes: The dress code was unusual (for a Catholic high school) in that gym shoes were OK. I do remember the sweatshirt I was wearing (it showed up on my ID photo taken that day): a maroon and gray zip-up, no hood. Maybe it was a little cool that morning and that's why I wore it?

Being new to NDHS. my family didn't know the shortcut to get to school. From where we lived, there was no quite direct way to get to Dempster Street between Milwaukee and Harlem avenues. Canfield, the main north-south road, ended at Northwest Highway. Harlem was almost a mile east of us. You could zig-zag to Milwaukee, but my mother instead bounced west to Greenwood (which was farther than Harlem) and took that into Niles. We would discover that you could cut through Park Ridge on Washington Street, which was kind of a glorified side street, cross Oakton and then Milwaukee, and you'd be practically at school. That first morning, we were way over in west Park Ridge, and came back east on Dempster. We drove past the cemetery west of Milwaukee Avenue and I thought to myself, slightly frantically, we're almost there, I'm almost a high-schooler.

The first day of orientation wasn't so bad. Just freshmen. We got a brief scary lecture from the dean, broke into some discussion groups, toured the school, got our aforementioned IDs taken and our lockers assigned, and weren't so overwhelmed. There was another day of orientation after that, which went about the same. The real first day, when the whole school was in session and we were thrown in with all these older kids, probably should have been the day ti be frantic, the day I remember vividly. Yet, surprisingly, I have no recollection of that day. Only the first morning drive.

I just looked up the website of the Catholic high school by us here in Utah, where the boys could theoretically go to school in four or six years. I was curious about the dress code (uniforms!) but got a little caught up in the student handbook. I think about what their first days will be like. Michael will be so nervous but has something going for him I didn't -- he'll already be 14 (and only a few months away from 15) and, if the growth rate holds steady, will be taller than 6 feet; he won't feel as intimidated (I was only about 5-foot-6 when I started high school). Plus, the way high school sports are conducted now, if he's playing basketball, he likely will have already played in a summer league with his new team before he is officially a freshman. And Ben, I'm not worried about him either. Yes, he'll be as skinny as I was when I stepped into my new high school, but taller. However, Ben attacks any new school situation with such rabid enthusiasm that he will fit right in. Michael is going to love attending high school; Ben is going to love learning in high school.

I'm now thinking about driving them in on their first day. We are close enough to the public high school they would attend to walk, but I'd still drive them in on Day One. They will be so nervous, but life is nervously moving on to the next big thing.I'll just try not to drive them past a cemetery ...


Popular posts from this blog

A quarter-century

Nobody did it better

Summer 2017: Days 83-90