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Photos, lunch box notes among first day of school traditions

Thu., Sept. 2, 2010

To commemorate her granddaughter’s first day of kindergarten, Spokane resident Catherine Marko created a report card grading Greta’s best skills – hugs, crafts and “being a good princess.”

The girl got a gold star for each.

Marko said she’s done the same for all of her grandchildren.

“I am hoping this act will help them remember their very first day of school,” Marko said.

As students in the region’s largest district head back to school today, there’s a good chance that a card, a cheery note or a snapshot on the front steps has already been a part their day. Those first-day-of-school traditions carry through the generations.

While kids may only begrudgingly oblige their parents at the time, they grow up to appreciate those acts and often carry them on.

Spokane resident Sandra Buss, now a great-grandmother, had her picture taken on the first day of school every year. She carried on the tradition with her three children.

“My kids’ pictures were taken in front of (the home’s) lilac tree,” Buss said. “My grandchildren had their picture taken in front of (their home’s) cherry tree.”

All three generations have attended Spokane’s Willard Elementary School.

“Posing for the picture was sort of a rite of passage,” she said.

Coeur d’Alene resident Mary Souza’s children did that and more, she said.

“The first was being woken by the singing of ‘school days, school days, bright and shiny rule days. …’ The second tradition they pretended not to love was the required group photo on the front porch before they left for school,” Souza said. “Now we have a great lineup of first-day photos from every age!”

When Liberty Lake resident Tanya Smith would open her lunch pail on the first day of school, she’d find an encouraging note from her mom, she said – something like, “Happy first day of school. Mommy loves you.”

“And she always put ‘XOXO’ on her notes for hugs and kisses,” Smith, now 30, said. “They made me feel special. I guess she knew it would be a hard day.”

Her mother’s tradition apparently made an impression, because Smith designed her own line of greeting cards, Wimzie Prints, which includes love notes designed to go into lunch pails.

Smith’s son Calvin is only 2 years old, but when he starts school, “I definitely will do something like that for my son.”

In addition to the pictures, Buss and other mothers in her neighborhood had another tradition.

“I was a young, working mother but always took the morning off work to see the three kids started school properly,” Buss said. “Following the traditional first-day-of-school picture, all of us moms walked the kids to school, met all their teachers and kissed away any tears. Then we, declaring this the ‘True Mother’s Day’ treated ourselves to our annual breakfast out – grown-ups only!”

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