Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Day, Another Year

A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember.

-- Mr. Bernstein in Citizen Kane (1941)
The summer between my fourth and fifth grade years my family moved from Philadelphia to Cambridge, Massachusetts. So when I went to school for the first time that September -- I think it was September, not August -- I was new, and didn't know a single soul.

I therefore have no idea what the name of the student was (if I knew him later, I didn't then). I'm fairly certain he was in my grade. But I vividly remember that I was walking directly behind him -- through the school yard, up to the school door -- when I saw him greet a fellow student, presumably for the first time since school let out the previous June, and say, with a world-weary voice, "Another day, another year."

We were just boys. But it struck me at the time as filled with meaning beyond the simplicity of the words themselves. I heard in them a profundity with echoes of Ecclesiastes -- a venerable wisdom that today I would laugh should anyone think it present in a statement by a twenty-year-old, let alone a nine- or ten-year-old, as those boys were then.

And yet, in truth, I don't think there's been a school year that's started since in which I haven't thought at some point on or about the first day of school about that sentence, and the profound, sorrowful wisdom that I still (despite all) hear in it.

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