The day has come at last. Whether we want to or not, we have to leave the summer behind. My favorite books are piled on one end of my bureau and there they’ll stay until this afternoon. Today I have to pull on a dress and my new shoes and get ready for the first day of school.
Ma and Dad left for work around six-thirty and it will be Tink’s job to make sure that Curt and I are clean and respectable for the school community. Curt stands in front of the black iron sink where Tink has taken some hot water from the kettle and cooled it down with brook water so he can scrub Curt’s neck and ears and make sure he is clean. Curt is doing some sort of a dance and protesting, but Tink has a good grip on him and I can see the cloth scrubbing around his ears. Curt asks Tink if he is trying to kill him and Tink replies no, that he isn’t but he isn’t going to school carrying summer dirt with him. There he is through with Curt and it is my turn to be inspected. He turns me round and round until I am almost dizzy and then he takes a comb to my hair. I think my hair looks fine, but he wants to make sure everything is “all evened out”. Rex takes care of himself and I am not sure what would happen if Tink tried to inspect him.
One by one, we go to the kitchen cupboard counter and take a brown bag. I saw Ma making them up last night before we went to bed. I know we will have a biscuit with peanut butter and jelly and a cookie. Perhaps we will have a couple peanut butter and crackers in there, too. You never know until you open it on the school grounds at noon.
Tink will ride on the bus as far as Locke Mills and then he will get a ride to the high school. Right now we are rushing down the driveway because our bus has gone by to pick up Henry Bowers, who lives down below us now. As soon as the bus comes back, we should be right out there and waiting. Our bus driver is “Cass” Howe.
The bus stops. I have seen pictures of big yellow buses, but ours is a van. We have a plank on each side of the van where we sit. My knees almost touch the knees of the one sitting across from me. Cass smokes cigars and I hate the smell of them, but I am not going to say anything, because he looks a little gruff. Maybe he hates mornings as much as the rest of us.
All the four miles past all the ponds, I keep thinking about school. I am ten years old and going into the sixth grade which is in the “big” room and I have Mrs. Olive Lurvey for a teacher. We have three rooms in our school. The primary room, the middle room and the big room. All the kids in the Big” room have always looked so big to me and now I have kind of a butterfly chorus in my stomach. I have had Mrs. McAllister, Mrs. Ring and Mrs. Gunther but I have heard that Mrs. Lurvey is a wonderful teacher, but also very strict. There are tales of her using a strap on some of the big boys’ hands when they got out of line. I thought about that this summer and I do not intend to get out of line at all. I have a sense of humor that Ma says will put me in a jail cell some time if I don’t straighten out. I don’t think I will land in a jail cell, hopefully, but I know Mrs. Gunther had me by the hair last year because something struck me funny and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Well, Cass has delivered us to the little schoolhouse. We climb out and walk up the side walk. Most of the town kids are here already. The smell of the oiled floors hits us as we walk inside. I almost forgot to hang my sweater in the big room alcove . To the right of that is where the middle room kids leave their lunch bags and sweaters and the little room has the whole middle hallway with coat hooks and places to leave their lunches. The boys bathroom is at the end of the hallway on the right, but we girls have to go to the end of the hallway, through a shed and through another door to our bathroom. That is located more conveniently for the little room kids, though.
Curt goes into the little room and Rex and I look at each other and go into the big room and sit way on the right where sixth graders sit. We are in the same grade, because Mrs. McAllister got tired of my being bored in sub-primary reading Dick, Jane and Spot and put me in first grade the same year. So when I went back to school the second year, she put me in the second grade with Rex. I have been reading some of Dad’s detective stories at home when he was not around and Dick and Jane were very boring. I didn’t know all the words in the magazines, but what I did know were enough to make it exciting. I like to sit in the back seat and especially since I see a book case filled with great looking books to read!! I wonder if Rex is nervous, but he looks pretty brave. There is only one other girl, Kay, in my class. We always sit near each other and sometimes get in trouble. I do not think I will get in trouble this year.
Mrs. Lurvey has just entered the room. She is ready to teach and the first thing I notice are her long, very red fingernails. I can’t see it, but I know lurking somewhere in the shadows must be that strap I have heard so much about. I have a feeling this is going to be a very productive year, but a very loooong one.