The dogwood tree in our front yard has just one purpose these days.
The tree, no more than 15 feet tall, has several dying branches. The few still living are near the bottom, which makes mowing around the tree a real pain. There hasn't been a good bloom on the tree for a few years, although this year was about as good as it has been in a long while. Maybe that was a product of our wet spring.
Both of our boys are too old to climb the thing. Maybe if our 14-year-old tried to scale it one last time, it would fall to the ground.
We won't let him do that because we need that tree for the first day of school. It will move back into the spotlight for a few minutes on Wednesday morning when our boys head off to school. Our family tradition started when our now-high school freshman went to his first day of preschool many moons ago.
We placed him in front of that dogwood tree to remember the moment. With backpack slung over his shoulder and a mouth full of baby teeth grinning back at us, we took his photo.
This same scenario has played out every year. Eventually we added another son in the mix. We have individual and group shots. The teenager is way too cool for this now, but he appeases our request. Soon, the third-grader in the house will raise his nose at our silly ritual.
From the looks of it, a lot of families have their own first day of school rituals. Over the past week or so, my Facebook timeline has been filled with pictures of kids — some smiling and some not — placed in front of trees and other things and asked to record the moment for Mom and Dad.
Our boys will joins the masses returning to Quincy Public Schools on Wednesday. The first day of school means so many things to different people.
For the students, it means summer is over. Back to the books and the homework that comes with them. Our in-house freshman really has to kick things into gear. From here on out, the grades he gets really matter.
At least he won't have to suffer the same fate as I did on my first day of high school. Going from a tiny Catholic school to a huge public high school, I couldn't find my locker on the first day. Turned out that it was in a corner of a hallway and some burly upperclassmen were blocking it. He has another year before getting lost in the Quincy High School hallways.
For teachers, it means that they can start the countdown until their next summer break. Their days of lounging at the pool and enjoying the roughly 10-week break are finished. It is a break that is well deserved. I don't know that I could spend eight hours a day, five days a week with my kids. Teachers do that times about 25 or so and try to teach the kids something. They need the break more than the kids do.
For parents, the first day of school means some peace, quiet and order around home. Maybe our house won't look like a war zone all the time now that the kids are back in class. They'll only have nights and weekends to destroy the place.
Just as long as they don't take out that dogwood tree. We still need it for a few more years.