June 2, 2014 by Melanie L.
I do not remember the first day of Kindergarten.
In fact, there is not much I do remember about that entire year. My memories of Kindergarten are limited to that mad crush I had on Mighty Mouse, my brand-new character-licensed sneakers to prove it, and that one moment on the classroom stoop, just a few steps from the playground when I sat next to Russell (not pictured) and discovered that he, too, loved Mighty Mouse and his own brand-new sneakers to match.
What I lack in foggy memory, though, I have in bright pixels. Now that Monkey, my eldest, is about to start Kindergarten in the fall, I have been spending a lot more time reminiscing by wading through as many photos as I can find – like this photo taken at the bus stop (by Steve’s mom, Peggy) on the very first day of school. When I examined this photo closer, however, I noticed that this photo said less about us as we were on that innocent day, but instead screamed about us as we would come to be in the future.
Steve, on the far left, dutifully obeys what must have been his mother’s (repeated?) request to smile, and he is the only one truly trying. He sure was sweet but also a bit of a rascal. Perhaps in that smile one can see a little Lothario. This dutiful son is the face of my very first kiss which took place the following year. The two of us, six years old, slipped into the back of his mother’s wood-sided station wagon and touched lips with equal parts revulsion and curiosity, the way I imagine the fabled Princess first kissed her frog.
Next to him, Ali, oh sweet ebullient Ali, sheds her effervescence for this particular picture and instead stands where the sun incited a small uprising on her visage between her triumphant squint and her defeated smile. A prelude, perhaps, to the epic battle for her life she would go on to face a mere 28 years later.
Cindie, tallest and in the middle, most exemplifies the anachronism of personality rife within this early picture. She is and was always sweet and a bit spunky, but yet she is pictured here with balled fists and smug smile. It’s as if she just rescued a friend from a bully with a swift punch. And, she did do just that, but not for another 8 years, when a mean girl in the middle school locker room decided to steal the jeans I was attempting to put on – with my leg still in it! This is how Cindie looked on that day in eighth grade, and save for this one picture, that day only.
And, then, here pictured on the far right is Emily, sporting pink pants and a mane of beautiful curly locks, well, any locks at all for that matter. But, her expression is not just a squint against the blazing sun, it is a face full of protest at having to take a picture in the first place. And protest, she did for many years. About a decade after this picture was taken, she railed something fierce against the gender norms imposed upon her. She played soccer better than the boys. Later, she would go on to shave her head, wear dark neutrals, and, if I remember correctly, she protested the restrictions on her date’s gender at prom. (Em, do I have that right? Or was it the fall dance?) In any event, even though this photo predates her struggles, she already wears her battle scars.
Finally, there’s me, with my face obscured by my own arm. Despite the fact that at that time, I was exceedingly outgoing and talkative, sassy even, my pose here foretells a loss of confidence near the end of primary school that would go on to shape all of my relationships, up to and including my marriage.
But, before any of those things would come to pass, on this day, we were just a bunch of five-year-old neighbors who were staring into the blinding sun while waiting for the yellow school bus to pick us up for our very first ride. I’ll have to search beyond this first picture I found of me in the first album I looked, to find the innocence of the present moment untainted by the impending future.
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