Yesterday was the first day of school here in Seattle. Fruit Bat doesn't start preschool until Monday, so it's still officially summer for us, but for the older kids...game's on. You remember what it was like: the tingling excitement of starting a new year, the smell of fresh school supplies, the hope that that year everything would be different.
In Michigan, people used to show up on the first day, despite the soaring early-September temperatures, in their new, abrasive, wool sweaters. They'd loiter around the school entrance, eyeing each other, critiquing, comparing, clutching their new Trapper Keepers, scratching at their necks.
My most memorable first day was the start of 9th grade. It was my high school inauguration. But, embarking on a new (and largely, for me, miserable) new phase of my schooling isn't why it stands out in my mind. It is a glittering geode of a flashback because of my outfit. And my really bad haircut.
I showed up in a lavendar Members Only jacket, which in and of itself was appropriate for the times. But, pinned across the chest from the shoulders to the bottom hem were dozens of Michael Jackson buttons. I was a flagrant Michael Jackson groupie (even though I hadn't yet even seen him in concert).
My jacket was nothing compared to my bedroom, which boasted literally hundreds of posters, photos I'd ripped from magazines, cassettes, MJ colorforms and even an MJ coverlet for my bed. And I was actually proud of it.
Nothing seemed at all odd about my fetish until that first day of 9th grade when the other kids squinted at me, shook their heads at me, whispered about me, wondering why a white girl who lived surrounded by corn and cattle fields in Northern Michigan was so obsessed with the Southern California crooner (who we now know is mentally ill).
I learned a lot on that first day of school. The main lesson being: Blend. At least somewhat. I learned that non-athletic interests would often lead to scorn in my school. I learned to don my scratchy sweater and, oh yeah, grow out that terrible short haircut that really didn't work on my six-foot, ninety-five-pound frame.
The long hair I've stuck with. The fashion choices I've improved. The whispers and head shaking that we all sometimes encounter don't bother me like they used to. But I still, on the first day of school, even when it's not my school, feel that sense of possibility, that sense that this year might really be THE year.