Memories of the first day of school

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(Host) Commentator Linda DuCharme remembers how much she used to look forward to the first day of school.

(Ducharme) A friend of mine once told me that when he was a youngster and saw the back-to-school displays in stores during late summer, his stomach would rotate in sheer dread.

Not this kid! Back-to-school day was absolute joy to me. It meant freedom from the exquisite boredom that comes only from living in the middle of nowhere with no one to play with but six totally uninteresting siblings. Returning to school was full of promise of seeing old friends or the possibility of a new kid that one could choose to be either benevolently kind and helpful to, or scathingly superior.

Back to school meant a new outfit that hopefully would be exactly like the new outfits everybody else would be wearing. There would be new shoes for all and their fresh leather aroma would fill the halls on opening day. There would be a spanking new pencil box containing, among other things, a small plastic protractor which, to my knowledge, was never used by anyone, ever.

There would be a new lunch box destined to carry sandwiches made exclusively of peanut butter and jelly, and a thermos that did not keep milk cold and anyway was designed to break into smithereens within the first week of use.

When I started school in Stowe, first and second grades were in a small separate building presided over by one teacher. My fondest memory of her is that she let me be left handed, an unheard of practice in those days. I was allowed to do my own thing rather than work in pursuit of the perfect slant via the Palmer method.

The upper grades were housed in the big school next door and one could only imagine the glories of ascending right up through grade 12 there.

My family moved and my education was broadened to include Northfield (a big school with each grade having its own room), Wolcott (eight grades in two rooms) and Hardwick (the big time!).

It was a happy day when I first stood in front of our red brick house on Route 15 and waited for Elmer Fleming who drove the school bus, a panel truck with two wooden benches in the back. Thoroughly car sick everyday, I considered it a small price to pay to finally go to school in Hardwick.

I loved Hardwick. It offered me not only more classmates than I had ever experienced but more interesting subjects. My English teacher in 7th and 8th grade was Mr. Smith and I never learned anything new in English grammar after Mr. Smith.

In Hardwick there were sports teams to cheer for and dances to go to. In Hardwick there was romance.

Maybe it was the throes of adolescence that tinges my memories with such bliss and maybe it was because my family moved again before I could reach the lofty perch of 12th grade there.

Next year will be my 50th high school reunion and I will celebrate it in Hardwick.

This is Linda DuCharme of Brookfield.

Linda DuCharme is a retired assistant managing editor of the Brattleboro Reformer. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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