Back to School in western Garfield County |

Back to School in western Garfield County

My mom snapped this first day of school picture of my brothers and I on the farm circa early 80s.
Courtesy of Linda Mills

The day most children have been dreading and a lot of parents look forward to arrived in western Garfield County this week.

With a ring of a bell early Monday morning, school is back in session in Garfield School District No. Re-2.

As a journalist I have the opportunity every year to return and document the first day of school.

My own memories of school always come flooding back each time as I watch the trepidation of some and the sheer excitement of others, as they walk into the typically locker-lined halls.

Some children grasp their parent’s hand so tight you can see the discoloration beginning to show as the child hesitates to let go, while other children sprint to their classroom, and then to the playground for a little fun with their friends before the first bell.

I was one of the latter.

I don’t know what it was about school, but I loved every minute of it and looked forward every year to returning.

Don’t get me wrong — I couldn’t get enough of summer break; it meant baseball, horse races and floating the rivers and irrigation canals.

But when my mom loaded my brothers and me into the old Suburban to head to town each fall, I could barely contain the excitement of new school supplies and clothes shopping.

We lived well outside of town. We had nearly a square mile all to ourselves, and my nearest friend lived over 10 miles away.

That could have been one of the reasons I enjoyed school so much: the chance to see everyone and interact with my peers, including meeting the new students that moved to town over summer and reconnecting with friends I didn’t have a chance to see over break.

There was more: School was so important to me that I never missed a day from elementary until my sophomore year in high school. Even if I were sick I would still go, to the chagrin of my teachers and school staff.

Even on one of the most difficult days of my childhood. I was 9 years old. To this day I remember details from my mom waking us up early and gathering us in the living room right down to the floral print on the furniture. I could tell something was wrong; my mother, who was usually very stoic, was very emotional as she shared the news of her mom passing away at the age of 53 after a valiant battle with cancer.

We were all in shock, sitting stunned on the couch. My mom gave us all the choice to stay home on that school day.

For some reason I chose to go to school. For the life of me to this day I still don’t know why I went to school. Maybe it was an escape from the sadness, but part of me believes that my grandma would have wanted me to go. She knew how much I enjoyed learning.

Perfect attendance wasn’t something I sought to achieve each year; it just happened. The school district gave away summer passes to the city pool for the achievement, which I rarely used because of the difficulty of getting to town with my parents both working to support the family.

It has been over two decades since my last first day of school.

I still miss the early mornings waking before the sun to get ready for the long bus ride to town.

Most people say they would never go back, but not me. I would go back in a heartbeat.

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