When I was a little girl, the end of summer was always bittersweet. The summer had been filled with picnics, roller skating, kickball, bike riding, swimming and all of the things that a 7-year-old girl loved to do.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
When I was a little girl, the end of summer was always bittersweet. The summer had been filled with picnics, roller skating, kickball, bike riding, swimming and all of the things that a 7-year-old girl loved to do.
It was sad to see the summer vacation end, but on the other hand, something new and exciting was just around the corner - second grade at my new school at Westernport Elementary in Westernport, Maryland!
My family had relocated to Westernport after having lived in Keyser. My first year in school was spent at Keyser Elementary School, and although I had mixed feelings about my first grade teacher, I still loved everything about school. There are many things I remember about first grade - the smell of the school, some of my friends like Jana and Tara, and being able to walk to my friend's house for lunch. But, most of all I remember how much I enjoyed learning.
I'm not sure when I found out that my family was going to move, but I do remember how sad it made me to know that I would not be going back to school with my friends. Even at age 7, I spent a little time in the summer before second grade making plans on how I would make this new journey easier to start.
I've always been a planner...always making lists of things to do or lists of pros and cons. Now, that's not to say that I completed everything on my to-do lists. My tendency was to over-plan and over-think and over-analyze...even at this young age. But, as upset as I was about moving and starting at a new school where I knew no one, I was determined I should give it my best effort. The thought of making new friends and meeting my new teacher - I was eager and excited.
Throughout my school years, it was a big deal in our household for my brother and my sisters and I to go school shopping a couple of weeks before school began. I looked forward to this every year! New shoes, new clothes and new school supplies. Silly, perhaps, but the newness of all of those things - no matter if I were 7 or 17 - starting off September with everything new was one of the greatest memories of my school life.
Shopping for school supplies was fun, too! How many of you can remember those rectangular erasers that had the most wonderful smell, and made the biggest mess on your desk when you used them? You know, when you would erase something and all of those eraser crumbs had to be wiped onto the floor. How I loved those erasers!!
So, here it was...the beginning of second grade in 1964. The evening before my first day in a new school I had chosen exactly what I wanted to wear. It was a beautiful, ruffled turquoise dress that had a bow that tied in the back. There was also a little crinoline under the skirt of the dress that made it stand out and swirl when I would turn around. This was my favorite thing that my mom bought me. Mom asked me if I were sure that I wanted to wear such a pretty dress to school, but I was convinced that I needed to look my best for my teacher.
Mom fixed my hair the night before with some curlers, and that night I could hardly sleep because I was so excited about my first day. When morning came, I couldn't wait to put on my dress and my new patent leather shoes with my white ankle socks. The truth is, I felt like a princess going to meet the Queen.
So many thoughts were swirling around in my mind - who will be my teacher...will she like me...will she be nice to me...will she be pretty...will the girls like me and play with me at recess. I was nervous, I was excited, I was ready.
When I got to school early and the principal took me to the classroom, I met my teacher - Mrs. Peggy Newlon. She was just as I imagined. She was beautiful, like that queen I envisioned. She smiled at me and told me my dress was just lovely. Her kindness meant more to me than she ever knew. Mrs. Newlon was just as a teacher should be. She had no idea that my first-grade teacher was horrid to me - making me stand in front of the class with my hands outstretched so that she could smack my fingers with a ruler for biting my fingernails. I wanted her to like me, and I tried all school year to please her. But, I don't think I ever did.
Mrs. Newlon showed me everything in her classroom and showed me where I would sit for the school year. I don't know if she knew how excited I was to be in a new school and have the opportunity to meet new friends. She had no idea how much I loved school - loved everything about school. But, at the moment when she smiled and made me feel at home - I knew everything was going to be fine.
Soon, my classmates would be arriving. I couldn't wait to meet them! One by one, they came into the classroom and Mrs. Newlon showed them their seats. As the students arrived, I realized that these would be my new friends and that I would be going to school with all of these kids until we graduated. After everyone arrived and were seated, Mrs. Newlon stood in front of the class and welcomed all of us. She was so regal, and was the prettiest woman I had ever seen. And, she was my teacher.
As it would turn out, second grade was one of my favorite years of school.
All of my worrying and planning were tossed aside. I quickly made friends, boys and girls alike, and had no trouble fitting in. Recess was the best part of the day, of course, and it didn't matter if it were inside or outside. We girls played on the jungle gym, played jump rope and kickball, and sat in circles playing games. We also played "Mother May I" and "Red Rover" - what fun, and recess was never long enough!
When the weather prevented outside recess, we played games inside, and on occasion, Mrs. Newlon let us play dodgeball in our classroom - although it was played a little differently. One thing I remember about dodgeball - don't play with boys! They throw the ball entirely too hard!!
Speaking of boys - even at age 7, I knew that boys were something different, yet kind of special. There was a boy I met in second grade I really liked, and as it would turn out, all through the remaining years of elementary school, we would write notes to each other and put them in each other's lockers. Notes such as, "Do you like me, check yes or no." How sweet is that! His name was Chris Shimer, and I thought he was the cat's meow because his daddy was a fireman.
Looking ahead to sixth grade just for a moment - Chris bought me the most beautiful blue sapphire ring, and one day he told me to check my locker - there was something there for me. When I got to check my locker, there was a small, flat brown paper bag. I opened it up and found the ring, and put it on my finger - one of my most precious memories of Chris. He had accidentally left the price tag in the bag, and I saw it was from GC Murphy in Piedmont. The cost was 10¢ plus 1¢ tax. Still, the ring meant everything.
Back to second grade. I suppose that I could say that my years at Westernport Elementary were quite memorable. I made lifelong friends and had teachers who made such an impact on my life. Teachers who went beyond what they needed to do to teach and to reach children who needed love and encouragement. I have never forgotten any of those teachers: Mrs. Newlon, Mrs. Patricia Broome, Mrs. Elizabeth Footen, Miss Simpson, and Mrs. Joan Riley - the one most special of all. I had the chance many years ago to tell Mrs. Riley what a difference she made in my life, and how much I loved her. I'm so glad I was able to tell her, for she passed away several years ago. A loss I feel...even today.
If there is anything I can say to those who have to make changes in the young years of their lives - it is that we can make the best of any situation. We can miss those we leave behind, but meeting new people and making new friends...those are golden moments and rare opportunities.
To my friends - Candy, Peggy, Patty, Alexa, Krista - the ones who accepted me for the wacky person I was - thank you. And, to the teachers who made me feel special and worthy - I was blessed to have you in my life. To Chris - your thoughtfulness meant everything to this 12-year-old girl. How I wish I still had that ring...
MRS. RILEY
Behind the strong, wooden desk
In the front of the classroom
Stands a tall, kind teacher.
She writes on the chalkboard –
Her cursive the most wonderful, perfect sight.
I listen to her words of wisdom,
I drink them, I consume them,
Yearning for the day
When I will stand tall there.
Mrs. Riley, who instills confidence
In a little girl who wants to be,
A little girl who thirsts for knowledge,
A little girl who longs for tomorrow.
Mrs. Riley, of sixth grade yore,
The champion of my foundation.