First Day of School And Wave Goodbye To Dad

Always a fan of Irene Water’s ‘Times Past‘ posts,  her latest memoir prompt, ‘School Uniforms’, brings back more than a few memories.

First School Uniform

As a tail-end baby boomer attending Primary School in 1960’s England, my school uniform was standard grey tunic, white shirt, navy tie and cardigan (knitted by my mother because it was cheaper back then to make your own clothes).

I wore my navy blue blazer with pride, but loved the start of summer when I could wear my cotton gingham dress.

What strikes me more than my uniform, however, are the vivid memories of my mother hand-sewing white labels embroidered with my name on every last item. And I mean everything including socks, vests and knickers. White for everyday, navy for P.E.

By middle school, short gym skirts in maroon were allowed, but did nothing to keep my legs warm playing hockey on a field rock-hard with frost.

Fashion by the mid 1970’s dictated midi-length skirts. No longer worried about girls hoiking skirts up to their thighs, teachers now forbade us to wear them more than an inch below the knee.  This would not do. Thanks to a group of girls who wore make up and not a hint of uniform, my friends and I escaped Teacher’s wrath, ignoring our skirts with hems at the calves. They had bigger fish to fry.

Unfortunately, the platform shoes let me down.

My pride and joy: brown and yellow lace ups with a platform a good few inches high. They must have stood out, because my mother got a letter one day from the headmaster. He warned that if I continued wearing them and fell down the stairs breaking my leg/neck/whatever, they would not be responsible. I wore them anyway, sneaking past the headmaster or any teacher I thought might bust me, and other than a lace or two, I didn’t break a thing.

But one memory stands out above the rest and it belonged to my dad. Not one to talk much about the past, during a prison visit with him in his later years,  he reminisced about taking me to school on my first day.

‘We said goodbye, I gave you a big squeeze and watched you walk off and thought how grown up you looked in your uniform, but so small in the crowd…I worried about you…’ Dad smiled, a wistful glint in his eyes.  ‘That satchel, it looked so big…!’

We laughed together at the memory.  I could remember the brown, leather satchel draped across my shoulder and the way it bumped heavily against my hip when I walked, but everything else was vague.

‘I’ll never forget it, ‘ Dad continued. ‘You’d almost disappeared, but suddenly you stopped, turned around and gave me a little wave…and I knew you would be all right. Brings a lump to my throat even now…’

Fifty years hence from that first day of school, I would turn and wave to Dad for the last time, the day before he died.  He rasied his head from the pillow on his hospital bed,  smiled and waved back as I said goodbye with a promise to see him in the morning.

Now it was Dad’s turn to tell me he was all right.








About Sherri Matthews

Sherri's work is published in magazines, anthologies and her blog. As a young mum of three, she emigrated from the UK to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England's West Country with her family and two beautiful black kitties. A keen walker and photographer, she is working hard on her memoir. Her 2021 entry to Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize was shortlisted and also received a special mention at Spread the Word Life Writing Prize. She was also a Page Turner Awards finalist.
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85 Responses to First Day of School And Wave Goodbye To Dad

  1. A very interesting post about your school years, Sherri.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mary Smith says:

    The part about your dad brought a lump to my throat.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. etinkerbell says:

    Sweet memory of your Dad. Loved it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. So beautifully written, Sherri, especially the part about your dad. I also remember how much I hated the Icy cold hockey pitch, with only a short above-the-knee skort over bottle green knickers. Shiver me timbers! 😢 Many of your school memories are similar to mine, including the handmade uniform. 😘🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • Shiver me timbers is right! Skort…yes, that was it, those shorts with a pleated front! I’m sure I had bottle green knickers too at some point..or were they maroon? Ha…we’ll never forget freezing out there on the hockey pitch whatever the colour, though, right? 😉 Thanks for the reminder, Sylvia, and your lovely comment 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Some things we never forget. My friend and I used to sing Christmas carols, with me doing the harmony and she the descant. The favourite was ‘Angels from the realms of glory’. 😀 If the ball came to near, we jumped over it. We weren’t the ‘jolly hockey sticks’ type, but somehow in upper 6th form, I ended up as the sports captain. A mystery to me, to this very day. 😯

        Liked by 1 person

        • Great story, Sylvia! I bet you and your friend sounded really good knowing your musical talent 🙂 My friend and I didn’t sing but we met in middle school playing the flute together. She pointed to the boy in the front row and said she really fancied him…he was my brother 😀 You were obviously quite sporty though, to end up Captain…! I don’t consider myself sporty at all, yet I was on the netball and hockey team (centre forward), ran track and did high jump and gymnastics. But like you, definitely not ‘jolly hockey sticks’ lol. Oh where have those days gone? Now I’m lucky to get a quick walk in… 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  5. TanGental says:

    very poignant, Sherri

    Liked by 2 people

  6. purpleslob says:

    Now you have me crying Sherri! You are such an evocative writer!! Beautiful ending, and perfect echo.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bill Hayes says:

    That image of you turning back to your Dad and waving is heart wrenching. That wave is a gesture that will last for ever. Very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dgkaye says:

    What a heartfelt story about your dad Sher. I can well imagine a lump 😦 As for the brown and yellow tie ups – now I woulda liked to see a photo of them! LOL ❤ Lovely story my friend. xoxo Hugs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Heyjude says:

    Lovely memories Sherri. I remember playing a hockey match in the frost with the boys watching because the ground was too hard to play rugby on so their game was cancelled! We were tough in those days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jude, thank you! Always lovely to reminisce with you 🙂 Haha, great story! No kidding we were tough and no excuses either. I was scared of my PE teacher!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heyjude says:

        Me too! But she was very good although rather tough on us sending us out on cross country in the snow with only PE knickers and Airtex short sleeved tops. No hockey skirt or tracksuits allowed. When she left in my 5th form her replacement was a bit too soft.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, those white Airtex tops! We weren’t allowed tracksuits either, until the last year of high school when a letter was sent home saying we would be allowed to wear one (uniform regulation of course) but only on exceptionally cold days. But never for cross country which I detested. Ah…the memories! I wonder if the perfect PE teacher exists…anywhere 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Luanne says:

    You still look the same!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Just a tad older…! Thanks, Luanne…so glad I see you on FB here and there, I’m ploughing through those memoir edits so this will be my last post for a while, but will pop over to your pad asap to catch up with your news 🙂 xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne says:

        You seriously look more than the same than most people do by far! good luck with the memoir edits!

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOL…it is true that some people don’t change that much, although I don’t see it for myself, but my older son is just the same – not as me, as him, if you know what I mean 😀 Thank you so much, Luanne…they’re going…one word, one day at a time, phew…hope yours are going well too! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: BITE THE WAX TADPOLE (5 Reasons I Like Blogging & Lady by the River 4 of 10) – priorhouse blog

  12. How’s that memoir coming on? If you can write like that, you’re going to touch a lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. These are touching memories, Sherri. I can visualize how you said good-bye to your dad. I remember the platform shoe days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A beautiful memory Sherri, and beautifully written…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Denise says:

    Poor dad. It’s to good that you had that memory to share together when it was rare for him to talk about the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dad had a gift for storytelling, I just wish he were still here to tell more. But I’m so grateful for the time we had together in his later years, especially after I came back from California. Always lovely to hear from you, thank you Denise and hope all is well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Prior... says:

    such a beautiful way to connect that memory to the day before he died
    and my favorite part of this post was this:
    “a wistful glint in his eyes”

    because it shows his kindness

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What lovely memories, Sherri. I remember the name labels being sown into everything, too. And my first day at school is one of the earliest memories I have. Mine, however, was me screaming the classroom down as my mother left me and walked away. And I was the only child crying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Hugh…but now I have a lump in my throat reading your comment… can’t bear the thought of little you crying like that and the only one too. Your poor mum must have been in bits. Memory is a strange thing…says I, writing a memoir, ha…as I can see myself turning to wave to dad that first day and dad waving back, but I can’t be sure if it really is my actual memory, or one I imagine because of what Dad told me. I didn’t cry that day, I am sure of that, but I do clearly remember feeling really homesick quite often, longing to go home in those early school days. Even calling my teacher ‘Mummy’ more than once, much to my embarrassment…!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember the memory of my first day at school so well, Sherri. Watching my mother walking away and leaving me there was heartbreaking, but the best thing she did that day.
        I don’t remember much of the rest of the day, but I do remember me becoming a ‘milk boy’ where, with another boy, we’d collect the crates of milk and deliver them to each classroom. Back in those days, each child got a half pint of milk at morning break. Glass bottles, too. Unheard of now, even when taking out a pint of beer outside some pubs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi again Hugh…apologies for my late return…I read this and haven’t been able to get back to reply until now, but I loved reading about your ‘milk boy’ memories. I loved being ‘milk monitor’ and remember it well. Those third of a pint glass bottles with straws we had to push through the silver tops, remember? Sometimes we had some left over and I would be one of the kids who would raise my hand to drink one. Bad mistake…the milk had curdled as it wasn’t kept in a fridge and put me right off!!!!!! And yes, it is heartbreaking for mother and child at such partings, but as you say, necessary and a good thing in the long run. Bet you had a glorious reunion at the end of the day! I loved coming home to mummy and having tea. Ahh…lovely memories, thank you so much for sharing yours, Hugh, I’ve loved reading them. Hugs… ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Pat says:

    I love that, Sherri. Your memory is so touching and sweet. I can only imagine how hard that was for your Dad to watch you walk in with the other kids and for a moment get lost. Sounds so tender in his recounting on how he worried if you’d be okay or not.

    How wonderful he was able to share that moment with you before he died. You both must have had a special relationship, my friend, and for that can’t help but feel how much you are blessed. Love and hugs . . . God bless you and your Dad. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Beautiful writing Sherri. I think you have probably made each of your readers swallow a lump as you waved back at your Dad. Beautiful memories and I think your shoes have given me a thought for the next prompt for Times Past. Thanks for joining in. It is always worth the wait to have your contributions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness, high praise, my friend, thank you so much. I hadn’t intended to write about my dad, but then again, anything to do with non-conformity…well, say no more 😉 I love your times’ past challenges as they always take me down memory lane in unexpected ways. And I love your posts and photos…we’ve learnt a lot about our early lives through these posts over the years, haven’t we? Now I’m more than intrigued about your next prompt and will be over to you asap to check it out! Shoes…oh boy! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding for my ongoing lateness….It’s my pleasure to contribute. See you soon, Irene! 🙂 ❤ xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: School Uniforms: Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  21. Mike M says:

    A beautiful daughter to a handsome dad. The eternal love and heartwarming connection between you both flows through this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love your posts about your dad Sherri, this is a lovely sweet story.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ste J says:

    This is what I love about your writing, you transport me there, give me this human feelings that people always talk about and make me appreciate memories hat aren’t even mine. I love it, and am excited for your book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment gives me hope…thank you so much, my friend…I am so grateful for your support – and excitement! Wow…if that isn’t a fantastic boost to keep going with the edits, I don’t know what is. Please forgive my horrible lateness in replying to you…caught by the tail yet again…

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Such a touching memory that your Dad shared with you. Thank you for sharing it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Norah says:

    What a lovely post, Sherri. I hope you will forgive me for taking so long to get over and read. I’ve had a busy month/year. I enjoyed reading about your uniform escapades. Those were the days, eh? I was touched by the reminiscences of your Dad. Seems to me those memories are bittersweet. I hope all is well with you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Pingback: Shoes: Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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