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Life Happens: Is going back to school the best or the worst of times?

HAMBURG — This week and next, kids everywhere will be going back to school. It’s the end of summer vacation. Too soon it is gone. It’s been a long time since I was a kid. More decades than I care to count, really.

As much as I hated to see summer come to an end, I was always excited about the first day of school. I had new shoes, new crayons and a new lunch box. What more could a kid ask for?

But amid all the excitement, there was a little trepidation, too. Would I have a good teacher? Would my friends be in my class? Would I get on the right bus? A million thoughts would keep me awake the night before the big day.

Once, I was so nervous that I actually had a nightmare that I forgot my clothes and went to school in my underwear. Years later, in a college psychology class, I learned that this sort of dream is a common reaction to anxiety, but when I was 12, all it did was freak me out even more.

I was wondering if other people remembered having conflicting feelings about their first day of school. I took an informal poll, to find out what they thought was the best thing and what was the worst thing about going back to school.

Here are some of the answers:

My daughter said, “The best part was the shopping! The worst part was everything else.” This from a child who is still in school, working on her master’s degree.

My niece offered, “The best part was seeing how much everyone changed, over summer vacation. The worst part is that it’s the furthest possible date from next summer vacation.” She has a good point.

Another willing participant said, “The best part? New pencils! The worst? The smell of bologna and apples from everyone’s lunch boxes.” He had a point there. I never liked that smell, either.

And then, “The best part of going back to school was getting to see what we would be learning all year. The worst part was sitting at the lunch table all by myself.” I had years like that, too. That may be the most anxiety-producing feeling in the world. Circling the lunchroom, with a tray full of spaghetti and a carton of milk, and not finding one single soul to sit with.

Now that we are grown-ups, we don’t have worries like that anymore. But for some reason, not having a lunch buddy ranks up there as one of the most embarrassing, uncomfortable things that have ever happened in my lifetime.

Luckily, having a new lunch box helped a little. So, think back to those first days of school. What was the best thing about them? What were the worst?
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