I don’t remember my first day of first grade, but I remember my second first day of first grade. I was six years old, and my family had just moved from Orem to Sandy. My new school was called Sunrise Elementary (photo courtesy of my sister). My mom took me to the administration office where they then took me to meet Mrs. Richardson, my first grade teacher.
School had already started so my teacher took me to an empty desk and told me to sit down and she would come find me later. The classrooms were much different than what I was used to. Each grade at Sunrise had it’s own giant room with four quadrants. Each quadrant was a separate class "room" and then there was a giant common area in the middle. Instead of four walls and a door, each class had just three walls. I sat down, not really listening to what was going on in class, but noticing how I could see inside two other classrooms from where I was sitting. Neither of the students sitting next to me really talked to me or acknowledged me. They just worked on their assignment, which I suppose they were expected to do, so I didn’t take it too personally.
After about ten minutes of sitting patiently, waiting to be told what to do or introduced to someone who could show me what to do, a loud bell rang. Immediately, every student in my classroom (and the other three classrooms) grabbed an orange, green, or yellow bin that was suspended under their desk in a wire tray, stood up and headed for either a different classroom or a different seat. I sat there, confused and a little alarmed. One boy walked right up to my desk, stopped and stared.
“What?” I said. But he just stood there and stared, waiting for me to do something.
“What??” I repeated. But he remained standing, as if he expected me to read his mind.
Mrs. Richardson finally came running to me, flailing her arms a little as if she’d forgotten all about me and realized I didn’t know that the bell meant it was time for “rotations”. I didn’t have an orange, green, or yellow bin like the other kids, and I didn’t know that this silent student who was standing and staring was waiting for me to move because my seat was in fact his seat for the next class. She pulled me aside and explained things to me, gave me an orange “tote tray” with some paper, crayons, pencils and glue and told me not to worry about where to go. They’d figure that out later.
It was a long first day of new things and new people in a new environment. At the end of the day I was so excited to go home and be with all things familiar. I went to the playground where my mom said she’d come pick me up, but she wasn’t there. I waited there for about ten minutes and still, no Mom. All the students had walked home and the only sounds I could hear were cars driving down the distant streets. The quiet was disconcerting and I began to cry until a teacher found me. She wasn’t my teacher, but she was nice and asked me what was wrong. I told her between sobs that my mom was supposed to come get me and I didn’t know where she was and this was a new school and I didn’t know how to get home. It wasn’t long before my mom came running around the corner, relieved to find me. She was a little late but apparently there was also a miscommunication about where we were to meet.
Thinking back on this I realize even though I’m technically a grown-up, I still haven’t mastered new situations with new people, especially when I’m left to myself. I get anxious and uncomfortable when I don’t understand what’s going on and I am sometimes shy to ask questions.
It’s funny, I also remember my first day at church when we moved to Sandy. After Sacrament Meeting my parents handed me over to the bishop who led me to Sunday School. He took me into the gymnasium where my class was and introduced me to a girl named Mary. He told Mary my name was Laura, I was new and she was to be my friend and show me exactly where to go. She nodded at him, and then smiled at me. After class she held my hand and took me to Primary and sat by me. What a difference a friend made; someone to escort me through strange, new things and to answer all my questions.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about escorts. We were talking in Relief Society one day about how important escorts are in the gospel and how we aren’t meant to go through difficult and new things by ourselves. When we first make our way through the temple, we bring an escort with us so we aren’t confused and alone. And from what I’ve read and discussed with other members of my church is that we are also given an escort when we move on from this life and enter the next; someone to make us feel comfortable and at home so we aren’t scared and alone.
New places and new things can be scary. Sometimes we need someone to ask questions, sometimes we need someone to show us what comes next, and sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to sit with and talk to so you don't have time to cry before your Mommy comes to pick you up.