How to Rock a Raincoat (and other stories from Georgia’s first day at school)

"Nov. 2006. U2 CONCERT. Awesome night. We traded bubbles for rubbish sacks and JB fashion us raincoats!"

“Nov. 2006. U2 concert. Awesome night. We traded bubbles for rubbish sacks and JB fashion us raincoats!”

“Does she go on the stage and sing songs for children?” Georgia asks.

“Not really. She’s more on TV and in movies for adults, not kids,” I say.

“Adult movies, Mama?”

Jez raises an eyebrow.

“No, no, not adult movies. I mean movies that adults watch, Hollywood films,” I say.

“What’s Hollywood?”

We’ve been talking about a good friend’s gorgeous new girlfriend who is an actor in LA. These kinds of just-turned-five conversations can ream on and on. And on. But today we need to be ON! We need to be READY! We need to get out the door. Georgia cannot be late for her first day at school.

*

My Kathmandu windbreaker clings to me, sodden and useless like a wet plastic bag. I promised Georgia we’d walk to school on her first day and so walking – in the rain – we are. Up ahead, a woman wearing an oilskin mac gets out of her car. Oilskin. In public. Who am I kidding? At this point I’d don a rubbish sack if it meant I’d stay dry. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be the first time…

Ready for my first day of school!

Ready for my first day of school!

Georgia clutches the curve of her Strawberry Shortcake umbrella handle to her chest like an anchor in a storm. And it is stormy. Gale-force winds. Sideways rain.

“There are no people out walking, Mummy,” says Georgia.

“No one else is brave like us,” I say with a nothing-will-upset-her-before-school smile.

Outside the school gate, cars discharge little people like lollies from a Pez dispenser. We step over the threshold of Room 23 as the bell rings.

“Good morning Tina,” I say to the teacher as I help Georgia hang up her bag. Blank stare.

“Is Georgia starting today?” she asks.

“Yes she is,” I say brightly. Georgia looks panicked.

“I think there’s been a mix up. Never mind, come on in.”

Not a good start.

“Mummy, Zara’s not here,” says Georgia.

The panicked look is about to turn liquid. As if by some stroke of universal motherly luck, Zara and her mum Beth walk in. The girls go off to look at a puzzle. I’m glad Beth is here; I’ve known her since we were 10 and at the same school. She knows my history and I know hers. She knows my inner dork – initiating a knucklebones championship in Form 1 (year 7), singing in the barbershop quartet and loving it, and making it to the regional finals of Mathex with “Maths with Mandarins” in Form 2 (love you Kim). Beth watches as I kneel down to say goodbye to my daughter:

“Georgie, I’m going now.” I throw my arms around her and inhale the damp wool of her lucky jumper knitted by Nanny. “I love you sweetheart.”

“OK Mummy, goodbye Mummy.” And off she goes. My big school girl.

I slide the door closed and step outside.

Beth says: “You’re doing well.”

“I’m just glad you’re here,” I say, “I’d be a wreck otherwise.”

Deyna and CB

1981: Deyna, I’ll never forget how much better the first day of school was with a friend to walk there with. PS how come you didn’t have to wear the attractive brown number?

We talk about our old school and figure out Zara and Georgia will be starting there together in Year 7. It makes it easier knowing Georgia, too, will have someone who knows her history as she navigates those tricky intermediate and high school years. Beth and I hug goodbye and I steal a look into Room 23. Georgia is sitting on the mat with her legs crossed, her hand touching Zara’s, listening to the teacher.

I walk out into the weather. They’re not tears, it’s just raining…

*

Today marks Georgia’s first official day of learning and academia. I hope for her the same enthusiasm for learning new things I still feel today. I hope she finds enjoyment in words and books like I do, maths like her Granddad and Peter, music like Lizzie and I, sport like grandpas Pi and Dave, and art like her dad. Most of all I hope she’s kind like her Nanny (but here’s hoping she does a little better at French, right Mum?). As I type I feel the cord between Georgia and I stretch tight. I imagine her sitting up the front near the teacher, hand in the air to answer ‘what date is it today’. Today is 22nd September, 2014 and it is Spring. Happy 5th birthday darling. I am so proud of you.

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