Now that school is back in, I can't help but reflect on all of the first days of school that I had in my lifetime. I loved school so much!

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
Now that school is back in, I can't help but reflect on all of the first days of school that I had in my lifetime. I loved school so much!
Yes, it was nice being off in the summer - when most of my days were spent swimming, reading, biking, going on picnics, sleeping in, staying up late and just doing the normal things that young kids do when there's no school. But come August, I was already thinking about all of the new clothes that my parents were going to buy me for school, and the new shoes and all of the fresh new pencils and paper and crayons...nice sharp, pointed Crayola crayons in the 64 pack! Oh, how I loved those crayons!!
Those were some of the special things that I was able to look forward to right after Labor Day. I loved the first day of school! Just the thought of getting back into the school building and having the opportunity to meet my new teacher...excited is an understatement!
To learn new things and then of course, to be reunited with friends - most of whom I hadn't seen since early June - I couldn't wait to get there!
Today, I'd like to talk a little bit about my first grade experience at Keyser Elementary School. Some of the readers of this column may not even know where the old elementary school was located back in the mid-1960s.
Back in 1964 when I started first grade, I'm not even sure there was such a thing as kindergarten, and definitely there was no such thing as pre-K. When I was entering first grade, I had never been inside a school building.
There is something so magnificent about walking into a school for the very first time. I love the smell of the school, I love the brick that the schoolhouse was built with it... the tall windows, and of course, no air-conditioning. But as a six-year-old, who even thinks of such a thing!
Although I was only six years old, I still have a lot of very strong memories of my first grade at Keyser Elementary. Now, you have to remember it was a long time ago, so my memories may not be 100% accurate. But, they are how I remember them.
I remember walking into the school for the very first time. I thought it was so grand, so exquisite - the blackboards, the erasers and chalk, all of the school desks.
The teacher - I won't say much about my first grade teacher because it was not a good experience for me. I was a six-year-old so excited about going to school, meeting new people, having a whole new experience, and getting to sit in a real school desk and play at recess.
It didn't take me long to realize that my teacher and I did not see eye-to-eye. I don't have fond memories of Miss Elizabeth Stemple. Back in those days, corporal punishment was permitted, and I experienced quite a bit of that.
I was always the talker, and always disturbing my neighbors (surprise, surprise). Quickly, Miss Stemple determined that I needed to sit in the front of the class so that I wouldn't keep my fellow students from doing their work.
Unfortunately for me, sitting in the front of the class and being in full view of Miss Stemple, she quickly noticed that I was a nail biter, and she did not take kindly to little girls biting their nails.
She decided she'd given me enough warnings for me to stop, and decided I needed further education about why I should not bite my nails. She would stand me in front of the class make me face the class - hold out my hands and hit my fingers with a ruler.
I have never forgotten that...never forgotten the humiliation and the cruelty of my teacher. Thankfully, I never experienced that ever again. I am forever grateful that from then on, I had wonderful caring teachers - teachers I admired and respected.
Teachers who believed in me, liked me and inspired me. Although Miss Stemple was not the teacher for me, the rest of the school year was very special. I had some wonderful friends, and we played together at recess.
I loved recess, but I also loved school. I especially loved coloring. I remember when the fire company came to our class at our school and taught us about fire safety. Coloring books were distributed to all of the students, and WOW! How I loved to color.
I can close my eyes even today and remember how much I loved that coloring book. Every page - I took my time and made sure to do my very best to stay in the lines and make my teacher proud of me. How I hoped she would be proud of me one day.
I remember there was one page where I had not stayed within the lines, even though I tried my very best. As expected, it was not good enough, but I never stopped trying.
I was very proud of myself when I finished the coloring book. I remember taking it home when it was all finished, and how my father beamed with pride on how well I had stayed within the lines and had used really nice colors in the book.
I have another very special memory of Keyser Elementary. It was Christmas time, and the class was preparing for the Christmas program. Like most all children, we were thrilled because there was going to be a Christmas party - a party with all kinds of treats, candies, popcorn balls and a visit from Santa Claus. Plus, we were going to have an opportunity to showcase the songs that we learned for the program.
We were all so excited, and it was hard for us to sit still that last week of school before Christmas vacation. Just the excitement was so hard to contain!
The party was coming upon us very soon, and by the morning of the party, I remember getting up early so that I could wear my new dress and get ready for the party.
Sadly, I woke up with the chicken pox! It was the worst day of my life. I was going to have to miss the Christmas party. I was going to have to stay home while all my friends got to enjoy the Christmas party at school. No one would know why I was not there.
I was so sad - the saddest I ever was. You can imagine the sorrow of a little girl who had spent weeks and weeks looking forward to the most special party she could ever remember. And now - chicken pox.
I'm sure I must have moped around all day, feeling sorry for myself. But, later in the afternoon, something very special happened to me...something I have never, ever forgot forgotten.
A knock came to the door, and I didn't really give much thought to it because I was still very sad. My mom answered the door and made me stand back from the front door - after all, I was contagious.
Guess who was at my front door? My best friend's mother - with a plate full of goodies from the Christmas party - wrapped up in a red bow...just for me! I giggled and cried...cried the happiest tears because someone thought so much of me!
Someone who made sure that I had a little bit of that party! My best friend Janna Fraser (now Bantz) was standing way back from her mother because of the chicken pox, and she and I locked eyes. I smiled the biggest smile of my life!
I was so happy...overjoyed and it was such a blessing..such a beautiful blessing. The generosity of thinking that someone else was doing something nice - just for me...just because.
I have remembered that little girl and her mother all of my life! And, you know what happened several years ago? The most wonderful thing - all because of Facebook.
I found my friend Janna after searching for her for quite some time. Of course we are much older now, and we both look very different. Pictures of her really did not bring back any memory on how she looks now, but I told her my story, and I told her how much that meant to a sad little six year old girl.
How special her mother must have been. How very special, how fortunate she was to have a mom who was so thoughtful, so generous, so kind. Janna told me her mother had passed away several years before. The world's loss.
We still keep in touch from time to time. She lives in the Carolinas and I'm here in Western Maryland, but time has never erased the memory that there are beautiful people in this world. I am grateful that there are special people in the world like Janna and her mother, and I'm glad that they touched my life in such a significant way.
We all like to feel special. We all like to feel loved. We all like to feel significant. And, we all like to feel that we matter.
Today, make someone feel special...make someone feel loved and significant. Because the truth is  we all matter. We take the bad along with the good, but we rise above the Miss Stemples of the world, and we find that we are a significant part of life. We are better because of it. We are more compassionate and understanding...more tolerant and patient because of it.
May God richly bless your life today, my friends.