Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The First Day of School

It comes with countless trips to WalMart for school supplies - and more school supplies as the school updates its on-line list! It comes with counting out pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters for First Grade math. It comes with night-before jitters. It comes with a phone call from the teacher.

Every year Pookie has gone to school, I have quietly and candidly handed her new teacher a carefully written note about her health, her 'special' needs, her unique 'normal' at the annual 'meet the teacher night.' And every year almost as quickly as I pass the envelope from my hand to hers, that 'this year's teacher' calls to clarify. To ask questions. To educate herself about our daughter.

This year and this teacher were no different. Pookie's fourth open heart surgery replaced a valve diseased by Methycillin Resistant Staph with a new, man-made, mechanical valve. With this new valve came a new medicine for Pookie. A medicine she will take for the rest of her life. A medicine that comes with food restrictions. Activity restrictions. Bruises. Blood draws. Phone calls from teachers. Life.

A feeding tube inserted into a small hole in Pookie's belly facilitated her nutrition from the time she was 7 months-old until she was 5 1/2 years-old. She ate exclusively by mouth only after five years of therapists and counselors and dieticians and Mom (and Dad). This year she eats lunch away from me for the first time in (almost) 7 years! Maybe my introductory note was a little more...I don't know --- intense? this year. It didn't take long for the teacher to call.

Coumadin is a blood thinner commonly used in a variety of heart conditions. My father took it because he was prone to strokes. My brother takes it because he lives in atrial fibrillation. Pookie takes it because she has an artificial valve. The new teacher knows Pookie cannot be a gymnast. She will not be a marathoner. She needs to eat lunch and drink often throughout the day. She needs to be reminded that lunch is short - 20 minutes! - and she needs to eat during those minutes, not spend 18 minutes chatting with Anabel and 2 minutes pulling the cheese off the top of her pizza and shoving it into her mouth and calling it 'lunch.'

First day of school. It's the same as when I was a kid. Only different.

I remember only two first days --- out of all my first days - only two remain in my memory. Kindergarten. And Freshman year.

For Kindergarten, I had Mrs. Buckridge. I had a brown school bag with a picture of a giant fat cat with orange stripes on it. My mom took a skinny black marker and wrote my name on the front in perfect penmanship. I still have that bag. The letters of my name are faded from age. I left it at McDonald's after a birthday party once when I was a kid. The McD's manager ran out to our car before we had a chance to leave to make sure I took my beloved bag home.

Freshman year I considered and re-considered my first day outfit. I'd heard horror stories of upper classmen forcing unknowing, naive, female freshmen wearing mini skirts to perform strange acrobatics while eating dog food from bowls the first day of school. Sure, it was frowned upon by teachers and staff, but my good friend and upperclassman, Jim, assured me this was a possibility. I threw caution to the wind and wore the blue jeans mini skirt the first day. With fabulous banana-yellow colored hightop tennies. They matched my shirt, of course. With socks pushed down into a scrunchy top right above the shoes. Oh how I never lived those shoes down.
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