The first day of school is tougher on some than others. Whether you look forward to this day or dread its dawning depends on where you stand in the pecking order of society.
For the next week, parents will pull kids from one back-to-school sale to the next, trying their best not to lose tempers with offspring who are anything but attentive to the task at hand.
But if we search our memories, our real memories, we’ll remember what it was like and how we too felt on that first day of school. Welcome, dear reader, to the first day at Bug School.
She circled the school once then landed gracefully on the sidewalk so all could see her grand entrance. Quickly she scurried over to join five friends who looked just like her. After all, like groups like being together, don’t they?
The sidewalk led up to the front doors of the school. Just beyond those doors, the group would play the “look at me” game for another year. And why shouldn’t they? Ruby red with black spots, the ladybugs thought themselves better than all the others who attended because they were the prettiest. They paused for a moment as their eyes caught a familiar glint in the sky.
The early morning sun glistened off the gold wings of the June bugs as they landed. They crawled slowly along the sidewalk leading to the school – proudly showing off for all to see. The richest of all the insects, they were soon surrounded by the lady bugs – all vying for their attention.
Throughout the school year, this united group would keep to themselves - and rightfully so. Money and looks are really the only things that are important. Or so they thought.
A brisk wind picked up a tiny white thread and carried it across the parking lot as dark clouds slowly rolled in and threatened the school with an early morning storm. Attached to the end of the thread, a large black and yellow writing spider landed gracefully on the sidewalk — immediately ignoring everyone — even the ladybugs and gold-winged June bugs.
And why shouldn’t she? No other insect could write their own name. After all, being intelligent is more important than money or looks, and she was much smarter than all the rest. Slowly she stepped over click beetles lying on their backs and made her way towards the door of the school.
As the spider stepped over, the four click beetles arched their backs and propelled themselves high into the air. Completing multiple flips before landing right-side up on the sidewalk, they crawled a few feet then repeated it all again, receiving claps and calls of admiration from all the other insects, except the ladybugs, gold wings, and of course, the garden writing spider.
The click beetles’ ability had nothing to do with money, looks, or even intelligence, so they weren’t interested. Still, the beetles continued disrupting the normal flow of the school. After all, being a class clown was their job, and showing off was the most important thing to a click beetle.
Suddenly, the beetles clicked out of the way, and a clear path on the sidewalk was formed for what came next – a stream of giant army ants, always ready to fight at a moment’s notice without provocation. Even the ladybugs, gold wings, and spider parted for the stream of black and red bullies.
And why not, the ants thought as they marched by. Might makes right, doesn’t it?
The roly-polies on the sidewalk quickly tucked their legs and curled up into tight balls as the army ants marched past. They were scared of army ants. Then again, they were scared of most everything. Such is the life if you’re a roly-poly.
They un-balled just in time to see lighting slice across the darken sky and a green and black horned dung beetle coming their way. They balled up again. What you don’t see can’t hurt you, they thought.
The huge dung beetle lumbered its way past the roly-polies and along the sidewalk in solitude. No one wanted to associate with the huge beetle with the hideous horn and oversized body. It was the same this year as last. The only one of its kind in the entire school, his importance in the world was not yet recognized.
The dung beetle was used to a life of solitude, but the loneliness still hurt. If only the others could get past his outward appearance.
At that moment clouds burst opened, and a torrent of rain fell in an instant. The sudden downpour washed all the insects off the sidewalk, down the road, and into the storm drain – possibly lost forever.
For the next hour, the storm did its best to destroy the school. Gale force winds, sheets of rain, and hail pounded the walls, but the building withstood the inundation. It took a while, but the storm eventually passed. The clouds parted; the sun once again appeared. And out of the drain climbed the giant horned dung beetle.
On its back clung ladybugs, gold wings, a lone roly-poly, click beetles, a few of the army ants. And on the tip of the dung beetle’s horn stood the writing spider.
You never know how children will turn out. Seeing what’s on the surface is easy; seeing what’s underneath and being able to bring it out is much harder. That’s the unique job of teachers for the next nine months.
As you stand in line for that “must have” back-to-school item with your children, remember: it’s not money, clothes, or even how popular your child is that makes them special. It’s what’s inside.
Help your child’s teachers bring it out. The one child who doesn’t seem to fit into any group could be the very one who saves us all.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]