First day on Facebook

The camera captures the smiles of excitement, nervous grins, tears and uncertainty of students on that first day of school.

In the days of only black and white film, new pictures took at least a week to be seen. It took longer if more frames needed to be shot on a roll of film before sending it to be processed. Only then could proud parents slide the prints into an envelope to mail to family.

No longer is that the story. Now the excited grins and first-day tears come right to my phone or computer desktop. I experience it all vicariously via Facebook as one family after another posts pictures of their children’s first day at school. Lucky me, as a grandmother I do not have to wait for the mailman or a personal visit to see the pictures of the grandchildren’s first day of school. I saw their pictures and plenty of others on Facebook.

Let me say this. Many words have denigrated Facebook for too much drama, too much bragging, a flood of recipes, too many pictures of “tonight’s dinner” and the minutiae of ordinary days. I do not complain. I delete the dramatic, acknowledge the accomplishments, scroll past the minutiae and wish I had time to try a couple of the recipes.

But my mouse scrolling stops when I see pictures of the grandkids – whether it’s their first day of school, vacation with their parents, summer activities or their creative attire.

For the first day of school in the St. Louis area, my granddaughter’s choice of clothes reminded me of Junie B. Jones. She wore colorfully patterned sneakers, blue leggings and a pink-flowered sundress accented with a long string of blue beads wound a couple of times around her neck. Like every other kid, she carried a huge backpack – filled with enough excitement to last the day. Arms akimbo, she gives a goofy grin before leaving. After school she stands by the school sign grinning broadly, legs crossed, holding a chalk board announcing she is six and a half years old and a first grader.

She was the first on my Facebook feed sent off to school for the year.

Her cousins in Sherwood followed. Their public school dictates that everyone wear the school uniform of khakis and plain blue, red or white polo shirts. My grandson in shorts and a red shirt holds his paper sign “2nd,” his uncertain little sister with her huge yellow hair bow has one little black boot still clinging to the step behind her. In front of her blue skirt and polo shirt she holds her “K” sign indicating her first year away from Mom.

The pending departure of two older siblings the night before left their three year-old sister distressed. She insisted that mom pack her lunch and that her clothes also be laid out for the big day.

She watched her siblings pose for their first day pictures. She waited, but not long, before she insisted, “Momma! TAKE MY PICTURE! Where is MY paper?” Her pink outfit does not fit the school dress code, but her paper sign beneath her big grin fits her mood perfectly, “Jealous.”

At school, the kindergartner looks scared as she stands in line with her Minnie Mouse backpack sagging, but not as low or as big as the kid in front of her. I commented on the size of her backpack.

Thanks to Facebook, we shared a family moment as my son in Pennsylvania recalled his first day, back in the dark ages of the 1970s, “When I was in kindergarten, we didn’t have backpacks! We had to use our hands! I would have loved ANY backpack at that age. My parents … told me to WALK almost a whole mile to school.”

His sister, a whole eight years younger than him, responded, “You’re from the generation that wrapped books in a leather belt, right? And you could look forward to ‘stick-ball’ after school?”

Aah, the memories being made this fall by thousands of children across the nation. I am sure they all will evolve into fantastic stories as the years accentuate every misery in future conversations.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at