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Leaders of tomorrow

In the interest of full disclosure, this post is recycled.

Last year about this time, our local Gazette newspaper issued a call for readers’ stories involving memories of the first day of school. These would be published on the day after Labor Day, even though our school systems here begin just before the holiday. Having vivid memories from all of my first days of school, I immediately sent one in. The day before the submittals were to be printed, I received an e-mail from the feature editor. I’ve scoured my computer unsuccessfully for that message, but it said something to the effect of: “Dear Ms. Welch, thank you for the piece you submitted for our first day of school feature. We found it to be very good but, unfortunately, yours was the only one we received. Therefore, we have chosen not to run the feature.”

Considering this is the day after Labor Day and, for many, the start of a new year, I thought it appropriate–and efficient–to recycle this memory. It’s especially meaningful to me because this is the first year I haven’t had a child starting classes. Anyway, here it is:

From a young age, I remember my father’s exuberance on the first day of school. Every year, he shared his passion for learning in a motivational speech at the bus stop, which happened to be in front of our house.  

“You are the Leaders of Tomorrow,” he shouted, charging us to “go out into the world and learn, learn, learn so you can earn, earn, earn!” The booming oration probably lasted 30 seconds but, to me, seemed like an eternity, each phrase pounding me deeper into embarrassment. My schoolmates, amused by my father’s performance, looked forward to the ritual. But every year, on the night before the first day of school, the dread disturbed my sleep. 

As I grew older, circumstances changed, we moved, there was no longer a central bus stop, but the Leaders of Tomorrow message never failed to reach me in some form or fashion. Eventually, Leaders of Tomorrow was shortened to L.O.T., but I always knew what it meant—how can one miss an enormous  L.O.T. placard on the lawn? Even at college, my father found creative ways of getting his L.O.T. greeting to me on the first day of classes.  

I had the first grandchild 21 years ago. Each year from kindergarten through high school, there was always an L.O.T. surprise awaiting my son on our front porch, often pre-orchestrated when my father was out of town, even out of the country. An L.O.T. even reached my son on his first day of college in North Carolina. 

Now I rise with excitement on the first day of school, step out of my empty nest onto the porch and watch little ones “go out into the world,” as my father would say. And I breathe in the exuberance.

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