My first day of school, take two


Lauren Bender

Back in April, Caitlin Cruz ’22 and Cameron Bender ‘23 posed for a traditional first-day-of-school photo as they prepared to return to the Hill for in-person classes.

The first day of school — pretty exciting if you ask me, but even more exciting if you get to have two of them. It was Monday morning, April 12, and I was ready to go back to school in person for the first time after a crazy year. I even woke up before my alarm — that’s how excited I was. I hopped out of bed and changed into the uniform that I had already laid out the night before. I looked at myself in the mirror with my pink skirt and sweatshirt on, and a warm and fuzzy feeling filled within me because I finally felt normal again. And, after getting my license over quarantine, I was excited to be driving myself to my carpool’s house. After getting changed, I grabbed my lunch and my keys, said bye to my mom and dad and headed out the door. On the drive there, I couldn’t help but feel like an actual upperclassman. As a freshman, I had always admired the sense of freedom juniors and seniors seemed to have when swerving out of the parking lot in their cars, going 50 mph down the Hill as their hair whipped in the La Canada wind, while I, a freshman, waddled into my mom’s car as she berated me for getting a B on my last biology test. Today, I would finally experience this feeling of independence.

It was about 8:05 a.m. when I pulled up to my carpool buddy Cameron Bender’s house. Cameron came out of her house with a little more pep in her step than usual and got in the car. We were just about to leave when Mrs. Bender came running out the door with her phone in hand asking for a traditional first-day-of-school photo. We posed in front of the car trunk. I realized that in a normal year I would usually try and skip out on these kinds of pictures, but this time I was more than happy to say cheese. We got the picture, said our goodbyes and headed up the Hill. In the car, we played some Lizzo, per the request of Cameron, to hype ourselves up. We parked in Junior Lot and had to accustom ourselves to the dreaded stairs and the climb that came with them. But in a way, I didn’t mind too much because I got to partake in the tradition of huffing and puffing and trying to catch my breath after clambering up the surplus of concrete stairs. 

We parked and right away got in line for the weekly Covid test, which was at first mandatory but, as case rates improved and vaccinations got underway, would pretty quickly become optional. The swabbing process was more awkward than unbearable. Standing a foot apart from the medical personnel was the closest I had been to someone in awhile, so it took me a little getting used to. As I waited in line, I looked around Senior Patio almost from an outsider’s point of view since it had been so long since I’d been on campus. I felt what I imagine alumnae feel when they come back — that things had changed. I saw girls I had never seen before and girls I just hadn’t talked to in awhile. After being confined to mostly talking with my parents, being able to catch up with my classmates was refreshing, even discussing such simple things like the weather. 

As I headed to my first class, all I could really think about was how excited I was for life to get back to normal. Things that I generally would not think twice about — clusters of girls in the hallways, buses pulling into the parking lot, teachers walking past in the hallway — I took a moment to appreciate. 

In Spanish class, I watched my teacher taking attendance, and for some reason observing one of the most ordinary school events filled me with joy. It had been a while since I had seen a teacher take attendance in person, and it was just like I remembered it. It took my teacher a long time to figure out who was in class, and Ms. Ward came by, wondering when my teacher would submit her attendance. Before, taking attendance was such a small detail, but now it was something I was glad to see. 

After that class, I was off to religion, and as I walked through the halls and Senior Lot, it made me happy to see that freshmen were still freshmen. Just like every freshman class before them, they were looking as lost as ever trying to find where to go. And something that really made me laugh was seeing all the girls still adjusting their uniforms as they walked past the office in the main building. Something so normal as trying to not get dress coded made life feel almost as if nothing had changed. 

Then came time for a break between classes, and as everyone began to find their spots for the new year, I headed straight to Junior Land for the first time as a participating member. I ended up sitting under the umbrellas near the lockers since my friends got there before me and claimed it as our spot. It was nice to see that even though most of us had not talked in a while, we were still able to catch up. We even ended up running late to our next class because we had so much to share. 

Something that I truly didn’t think I would ever miss was the loud ringing from the bell telling us that we needed to get back to class. But it was a much more pleasant sound than I remember, and it was nice to hear after all this time. I headed down the stairs to the math dungeon, and a familiar voice echoed through the walls. Nish was back to shouting as math class began, and his voice was the most reassuring welcome a Tolog could have asked for after this year. Mid-class, I went to the bathroom, and — no surprise — I saw girls chatting away and filling their friends in on the latest news. I smiled and went back to class to pack up and get ready for lunch.

I retired to Junior Land for the second and last time that day. I had lunch, and before I knew it, the bell rang, and I headed to Journalism. Per usual we started off pitching ideas for new pieces and articles to write. We went around and, as it came close to my turn to pitch, I began thinking about what I wanted to write about. I then realized that it would be pretty cool to report on my first day back to all of you, the readers of the Veritas Shield. I pitched my idea to the class, and everyone unanimously agreed that it would be a perfect piece to write. And so I began writing about all the things that made up that first day back that were normal and that, because of how normal they were, made that day the best “first day” back to school that I could have asked for.