The Grace Of Schooling A Child

The hands appear prayerful. Or are they helpless? The lace ribbon trailing off the right hip needs tying in the back. She can't do it herself. But until the bow is secure, she is not ready for her first-ever day of school. There is no state religion in America. If there were, it would be public education. This photo captures one small moment in its sacred annals. Sans teacher, classroom, or chalkboard, Melanie Stetson-Freeman captures what we instinctively know: the grace inherent in the schooling of a child. The viewer is so much wiser than the subject. How can this shy, precious package-of-a-being take the measure of the threshold she crosses today? And yet, already, she does know some things. By the end of the day she will have a teacher, a person whom her family has told her she will revere and respect and whose role she must never trivialize. She knows she will work hard. This being Los Angeles, she will play outside at recess, being careful for her dress. Such stark innocence begs a question - how will school life change her? - because change her it certainly will. Quickly she will gain some independence from home and parents, however incomprehensible such a state seems to her right now. Her parents have told her they are doing what is best for her, and this is all she needs to know. Years later, when she has grown up, she will be better able to take the measure of this day. She will know how to appreciate all that was done for her. For now, it is enough to know the lace bow did get tied in time. She walked down the stairs and out the front door. And then, a few minutes later, up a bigger set of stairs, through double doors: courageous, patent leather shoes silent along a tiled corridor, not letting heels touch floor. Into her classroom. Sitting with hands almost clasped, again, almost prayerful.

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