My First Day in School

by Bubby/Auntie Bessie

It was a disaster!   My mother was not able to take me.   She had given birth to my sister Helen on August 5th, and two other children had to be looked after as well.   Since I had had my fifth birthday in January, it was time for me to go to school - to Strathcona School.   An aunt took me, and when I was seated on the bench with other children, she went home.

In front of the bench was a long low table, with crayons, paper, and something I had never seen - plasticene.   I began immediately to play with it, completely fascinated.   Then, one of the two teachers spoke to me and I couldn't understand one word.   Although I had been born in Montreal, my family didn't speak English yet, having recently come from Europe.

To add to my confusion, the teacher had a knot of grey hair on her head and black ribbon around her neck, fastened with a shining pin.   Her appearance alone frightened me.   The other teacher was young but she was playing games with another group of children.   Suddenly I wanted my mother and I hid my face with my straw hat and cried and cried.

I loved school after that first day when I understood that I hadn't been abandoned.   Many years later I had to take my nephew to school for the first time.   He was quite happy to be going to school, but when we got into the classroom he turned to me and said, "I want to go home but I'll come tomorrow."   I took him home and sure enough he merrily went off on the bus the next morning.

Painting by Bessie Sager
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