I made a point to notice how empty the halls were. It was a Friday night, closing in on seven o'clock in the evening. I had arrived at school some twelve hours before, and the beehive of activity that was a building full of teachers preparing their rooms for the first day with their new classes had come to an end. There were still those who needed to put this item in its proper place, or arrange rows of desks and chairs in the most pleasing manner possible.
Empty desks and chairs. Just like the hallways. It is a rare occurrence to have that startling lack of children. It gave me a feeling of how the Rapture might feel if all those children had been sucked up into the sky by a forgiving deity, leaving us grownups to imagine what we might do with all those E-Z Readers and math workbooks.
It occurred to me that I hadn't heard a bell ring all week. Soon, there would be plenty of those as well. Clanging reminders of the time to begin the day, change activities, go to lunch, head home. There was structure to the day primarily because of that ticking clock. How many hours did we have left until there would be no more? After spreading countless acres of paper across innumerable bulletin boards and stapling miles of colorful border around them, I wondered not for the first time just how long those pristine vertical surfaces would survive without a nick or a tear here or there. The floors that had been polished to such a bright finish would soon be worn down by a trudging army of little feet. How much of this week of preparation would be noticed by the kids who would be going up and down those stairs, carrying their freshly laminated bathroom passes?
All that potential in one class list. First graders ready to show what they had picked up in that first, formative year of Kindergarten. Fourth graders already looking forward to the next year when they would rule the roost. These were all illusory figures who would soon become corporeal, manifested in the charges we were about to take with us on the journey called the 2016-2017 school year. Not all of them would make the trip. Some of them would bail before the end of the year, off to another school in another district, or across town. But the ones who were there on that first day would get to see us at our shiny best. Name tags taped to desks, bookcases full of carefully selected and categorized volumes. White boards up and down those hallways with one word written large: Welcome. Another year begins.