stephanie and flowersOn the first day of school, my phone alarm gently escalates in volume, the soothing tune nudging me awake at 4:15 AM.  My dog watches me, puzzled, as I prepare for the day, bumbling and bleary eyed.  I stagger to the end of my driveway, my trusty phone now functioning as a flashlight while I wait in the dark.  Very dark.  I see headlights creeping closer and I flick the flashlight setting to strobe, signaling the approaching car that it has reached its destination.

Mike and I drive the 20 minutes or so to the wholesale florist, he mostly grumbling about being coffee-less at such an ungodly hour and me strung out on Dramamine to battle a bout of vertigo.  But once we enter what is essentially an over-sized refrigerator, we sober up pretty quickly.  Mostly motivated by the frigid air, we fall into a rhythm of nimbly selecting bound bunches of flowers, inspecting them briefly while crudely calculating how many stems we have and how many more we need, pausing to puff hot air into our chilled hands, repeating the process until two, two-tiered rolling carts are mounded with larkspurs, sunflowers, asters, and a few that are identified only by their Latin names.

The gentlemen running the place efficiently check us out and, as they begin nestling the flowers in long boxes, Mike says, “I hope these fit in my car.”  To which one of the gentlemen replies, “As long as it isn’t a Prius.”

morning gloriesBy the time we cram Mike’s Prius full of the boxed flowers, the sun is up as is the rest of the city; pink morning glories are blooming along the rusty chain link fence surrounding the parking lot.  We head out, Mike and I barely able to see each other over a flower box strategically slotted between our seats.  We’re feeling better, relieved, reserving our enthusiasm for the actual event we have been preparing for.

We stop at each school and deliver the flower boxes, all to prepare for the first day of school ritual at each City Neighbors school:  Before entering the building, every student at every school selects a single flower, placing it in a vase in their classrooms, one by one creating a bouquet together. The symbolism clear. The ritual meaningful for everyone involved. However, this year, after having witnessed nine years of these first day rituals–although they have been happening since City Neighbors Charter School opened in 2005–I am fatigued and zombie-fied by the Dramamine.  I decide sit this one out, holed up in the office.

Later that morning, Mike sends me photos to share on our social media.  And the first picture I open makes me grin from ear to ear, which is no small feat for anyone who knows me.  The expression on this child’s face after being handed a sunflower (zoom in, if you must) made that early morning trek into a freezer worth the effort.  And, after 13 hours of sleep that night, the memory was sweeter when I woke up the next morning.

Happy 2019-2020!

Stephanie King, Business Manager, City Neighbors Foundation

first day pic