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First Day

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Stephanie hastily sorts through all of the new clothes, determined to find the perfect outfit for Caylea's first day of school. The sweet smell of blueberry pancakes fills the house as Stephanie walks down the dark hallway to the child's room. She creeps across the floor, trying not to stumble on the toys left out from the night before. She sits down on the bed and gently combs her fingers through the little girl's golden hair as she eases her awake. Caylea's excitement erupts into gleeful squeals as her mother cheerfully reminds her of what the day has in store. Caylea leaps out of bed and runs to the bethroom to begin her morning ablutions. Her mother watches her leave with a small smile on her face, pride and sadness warring across her features. She sighs once and then leaves to get herself ready.

A short while later, Caylea enters the living room and announces that she is ready. Stephanie looks over from the kitchen and laughs, eyeing Caylea in her bright new schools clothes, spotless new shoes and her giant backpack dwarfing her tiny body with her teddy bear hanging out the back. Caylea is also standing by the front door, car keys dangling from her fingertips. Stephanie's face becomes laughingly stern as she admonishes Caylea, "Not until you eat breakfast, Miss! I made blueberry pancakes for my big girl's first day of school!" Caylea pouts for a moment, but runs into the kitchen and jumps up on her chair, not even bothering to remove the backpack, which promptly gets hung on the back of the chair. Stephanie places Caylea's breakfast in front of her and sits down with her own. They eat their breakfast with Caylea asking questions in between each bite about what is to come. When they finish, Stephanie gathers up the plates and deposits them in the sink. She turns back to Caylea, who is perched on the edge of her seat and teases, "I wonder if there is any little girl in this house who wants to go to school today?" Caylea springs out of her chair, grabs the car keys from the table, and runs to the door yelling, "ME, ME, MEEEEEEE!!!!!!" Stephanie laughs as she follows her daughter out the front door and to the car.

Stephanie's steps falter as she approaches the sidewalk of the school. She grasps tighter the hand of the little girl beside her. Caylea looks up at her mother and grins impudently. They step up onto the cracking gray sidewalk and begin the trek to the school. The stride is set by the upbeat frolic of the child. The delightful sound of the early-morning chirp of the birds is all around. The dew on the grass glistens like a sea full of diamonds, seemingly unaffected by the warmth of the awakening sun. As they near the big red doors, a group of laughing children hurtles down the path in front of them and into the school. Stephanie looks into the yawning maw of the opened red portals. Her face momentarily reflects a slight sadness that flickers into resignation and slowly turns into steadfast pride. She smiles down at her eldest child's golden head and steps firmly through the doors.

The breeze from the open doors stirs up the smell of chalk and freshly sharpened pencils. The golden sunlight filtering in through the doors illuminates



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