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Commemorating a child’s first day of first grade

September 3, 2011

One of the greatest milestones in our lives is the first day of the first grade of school.
Remember when you were six years old, and the big day had finally arrived? I remember mine, and it was my pleasure to be with our six-year-old granddaughter, Mallory Ann Williams minutes before she caught her train (Mama’s car), the whistle blew, (the tapping of Mama’s horn), and off the two girls were headed to Sudduth Elementary School across town to begin her school career with a bang. Suddenly, I imagined I could hear that bell ringing. I could almost see her taking her seat in the classroom, as her brand new teacher, Mrs. Swift, is beginning to write her name on the board as the chalk makes that certain irritating sound across the green board, which used to be black. That sound makes your nerves crawl. Can’t you hear it now?
As I watched my only daughter, Elizabeth, now 32, make her final turn down Gillespie Street, I could no longer see the car as it suddenly disappeared with two of the most precious pieces of cargo riding along inside. “If I could only tag along today,” I whispered to myself. I wiped a tear or two off my cheeks, and thought that it was merely yesterday when I was sitting in the driver’s seat taking Elizabeth across town to her first day of her first grade. Wasn’t it Overstreet School? Where in the world has the time gone? Time ticks along. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years keep rolling along. We reflect and wish we could only go back to only one day, and that would be that first day of our first grade. It was Daddy who took me that first day to the first grade, and it was to Overstreet School on South Jackson Street, to Miss Adalaide Saunders. Wouldn’t you love a teacher named Miss Adalaide? I did. I had a baby brother who was four years younger than me back on Morgan Street at Mississippi State University in a big, old white two-story faculty home, and Mama was busy taking care of him that day. I held on tightly to my precious Daddy’s hand as I went up those steps into the big schoolhouse to begin a new chapter in my life. My educational life had formally begun. The year was 1949.
When I woke up early on the morning of Aug. 8, I came back to my art studio/sun room in the back part of our home and turned on my sleeping computer. It was still pitch dark outside because Mr. Sun was still taking his last nap before the alarm would go off and softly sing, “Wake up its time to begin this happy, beautiful day.” The room was very quiet, and I had just enough time to write my six-year-old granddaughter a love letter, and I now want to share it with you.
Dear the one and only Mallory Ann,
Here you are on a Monday morning, Aug. 8, and you have finally reached the first day of the first grade at Sudduth School. Mrs. Swift is your brand new teacher right across the hall from your kindergarden teacher, Mrs. Trish Cunneto. Today is maybe the biggest and best day of your life.
You are growing up to be a big girl. I think you are the most fine, wonderful, sweet, and caring little six-year-old in the world. You are putting on your big girl skirt, and you are now ready to face this big world. I know that through your learning to read, write, and do arithmetic you will make great contributions to the community, Starkville, the state, Mississippi, and to the United States of America and the entire world. I don’t know what contributions you will choose to make, but whatever your choices, I know for sure that you shall make this world a better place for all of us and for our future generations to enjoy living and making it be most fantastic.
I want you to promise Granny one thing. Always be yourself, Mallory Ann. Let every day be an imaginative one so that you can become very creative with your hands, heart, and soul. Color this world with exciting colors. Wear funny, exotic, wild hats, and remember to throw in a pair of purple shoes just to be unique and different. Dare to dream dreams, and make them come alive and turn into reality.
Don’t forget to walk down our abandoned railroad track. Search for things to keep and later make neat things out of the junk you find. To most people it is just junk, but to us, it became our secret treasures. Remember the two old thrown away high top boots that we later went back to get and save? Remember that cobalt blue old plastic toy man without his two hands (some child’s thrown away toy) that we almost discarded but instead decided that he might like a new home by Granddaddy’s garden house? He is still right where we placed him, standing tall without those two hands. Remember all the rusted railroad spikes we picked up, and how heavy they were inside our “keeper’s bag?” We could hardly carry it back down the tracks to home again. Oh, think of the fine hub cap we spotted on a hilly bankside where our busy Louisville Street with all its traffic as the track sort of crosses the street at the first stoplight headed towards Greensboro Street? Remember, we had to come back to get it? You crawled up the embankment to get it for our collection? You know, that one hub cap grew to become what Granny calls “Chip’s Hub Cap City.” I honored Mr. Chip Templeton by naming it for him. We appreciate his finding and bringing us hubcaps that he finds as well as his friends find out jogging along the streets daily around town and even out of town and in cities. We appreciate this more than Chip will ever know. To some, hubcaps are useless, but to us they are our shining treasures. I think our collection has grown to over 100 hubcaps, which used to be silver, are now tarnished with the softness of the patina, the dull glow of the silver finish which gives it such character. They have lived a little like your aging Granny.
Don’t forget to always do your thing. Choose something that makes your heart leap and your feet skip a beat or two. Don’t ever be a clone of someone else or even wish you were someone else. Just be yourself. I am so proud of you, and you have your whole life ahead of you. Mallory Ann, promise that you will and must live life and every day to its very fullest. Let each day be like a tall glass of water, let the water run over the rim because you just did not get through with this day cause you had so much fun just living today. Tomorrow will be an even better day. Don’t ever forget to giggle and be silly. Don’t ever forget to smile and let your smile turn into laughter. Laugh until your tummy hurts. Keep on laughing ‘til the last breath you take on earth.
Learn everything you can possibly learn in school. Finish school, go to college, and to graduate school. Don’t stop until you get your Ph.D. or an M.D. and be Dr. Mallory Ann Williams. Find a prince of a gentleman, marry him, and be his very best friend and soulmate for life. One day, become a mama, a Granny, and a Great-Granny, too.
I am so proud of you, my brand new first-grader. On a March 2, six years ago, I was there with your Mama in her delivery room. Elizabeth asked me to stay with her, and I heard your first cry, and I immediately loved you with all of my heart. You have always brought so much joy and fun into my own life. You are my very life itself, Miss Mallory Ann. I love you.
For Mallory Ann’s sixth birthday, her parents, Elizabeth and Stephen Williams, gave a very special gift to her, which was a ticket to attend Keith Urban’s “Get Closer” concert at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo on August 26.
During the summer, Mallory Ann and her first cousin, my oldest grandchild, Jordan Elizabeth Davis, 13, of Saltillo, took a piece of black poster paper and designed a big red cowboy boot and brown cowboy hat with the words “My 1st Concert.” Urban spotted this poster in the crowd of 6,757 fans and invited Mallory Ann to join him on the center stage. He called her “the blond girl.” He held her hand, and asked her two questions, “Is this really your very first concert?” and ”What song do you want me to play?” This was so exciting for a six-year-old girl.
I want to tell both of my precious granddaughters, I am so proud of their creation of the now famous poster. Follow your dreams in life, and someday maybe you will become artists like Granny.

Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at fc64@ms.metrocast.net.

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