It’s hard being the new kid at school. In our old school, in Zurich, this was not such a big deal because it was filled almost exclusively, with transient expats from all over the world. 25% of the pupils every year were the ‘new kids’.
But my daughters attend the local schools here in England. Most of the children have lived their entire lives in this area. As have their parents, and often grandparents, too.
My girls are not only the ‘new kids’ they are ‘the Americans’. It becomes painfully obvious to anyone within earshot, as soon as we open our mouths that we are not from these parts. We actually draw stares. But I get the sense that Americans are tolerated better here than in other areas of Europe, at least it seems we are liked more by the Brits than we were by the Swiss.
Today was the first day of school. Camille and Claire looked so sweet when they came down for breakfast wearing their school uniforms. Although they squawked a bit about the strict and formal uniform policy, I could tell that they both felt proud once they were all put together.
The mister stayed home from work for a few hours so that he could come to drop the girls at school, too. We all piled into my station wagon and drove first to Claire’s school (a ‘high school’ educating children from eleven to eighteen years old).
‘How you doing?’ I yelled back to Claire (Miley Cyrus was blasting on the stereo).
‘Good. Nervous. Pretty nervous.’ She shouted back.
The parking lot was packed, as we had expected. The mister pulled into a sort of illegal spot and sat in the car with the twins, while Camille and I walked Claire around the back of the school to the playground to line up with her class.
There were, literally over a thousand kids running around, bounding into each others’ arms and squealing with delight after having not seen friends for the six weeks of summer holiday. It was like watching soldiers coming home from war to the relief of their loved ones-- a fantastic reunion!
Camille and I stood with Claire. She was the only kid without a friend. I was the only parent on the playground. We stood there, the three of us, looking around, taking it all in. I did the best I could to make Claire laugh. The bell rang and they were all supposed to line up with their Halls (sort of smaller groups within the large student body). Groups of girls with arms locked, gathered into bunchy lines and Claire looked for her place. Just as I was developing an ulcer (on Claire’s behalf), two little girls walked up and enthused, ‘Hi, Claire!’
‘Oh, hi!’ She smiled back. She looked at me, relieved. ‘Mom, this is Jodie and this is Ellie. We met at orientation.’
‘Well hi there girls, it’s nice to meet you—‘ But I was cut off as they grabbed Claire and ran to find their place in line; the three of them, arms locked.
We then drove Camille to her sweet, little primary school.
‘I’ve got a stomach ache, Mama.’ She groaned.
‘Well, I think that once you get into school you will forget all about your tummy ache. In fact I am sure of it.’ I tried to reassure her. ‘ You will meet all sorts of new friends, I promise.’
‘Okay.’ She looked gloomy and worried.
We arrived at school, parked and walked her around to the playground to wait. After a minute or two, the twins ran off to play on a climbing frame. I was watching them, then glanced back at Camille, but she was gone. I scanned the playground and couldn’t find her.
‘Where is Camille’ I said to the mister. He was looking into the distance, ‘See that big gaggle of girls over there?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’ I answered, squinting to see.
‘Camille is in the middle of it.’ He said still staring at the pulsating, chattering massive group of 3rd graders.
The bell rang, they all lined up and sort of bounced into the school. She never looked back at us standing on the playground, waving goodbye.
And that was fine with me.