Do you all have a first-day-of-school ritual in your family? We do in ours — and Younger Daughter remembered what it was this past week as she marked her Last First Day of School. I wrote about it in my newspaper column this past Friday for the TimesDaily in Florence, Alabama. It’s not up at the Web site so I’m posting it below because I want to hear from others about their first-day-of-school traditions. C’mon — let’s share!

Here it is:

I was pouring coffee in the kitchen one recent weekday morning when my cell phone on the counter vibrated with the “incoming text message” sound I’ve gotten used to ever since I learned how to text – although I’m still slow and always afraid my recipients will lose interest and wander away before I get my message typed.

Anyway, when I picked up my phone, there was a photo of my younger daughter, a college student in Birmingham. She had sent me a photo of herself headed out her door to class with the words “Hi, Mom! Happy last first day of school!”

I had to set my coffee down as I realized she was right: This, her first day of her (we hope) last semester of college, was the last time one of my children would have a first day of school.

Wow. I had to sit down myself as I considered that.

Every August for more than 20 years, one or the other or both of my daughters had a first day of school as classes reconvened after summer vacation.

And every first day of school, I’d taken a picture.

I started taking the pictures, of course, to capture the adorable cuteness of the girls when they were little and eagerly facing their first days of kindergarten and first and second grades with carefully scrubbed faces, shining beribboned pigtails and gleaming new backpacks and lunchboxes featuring the latest Disney princess.

Who could resist recording such a moment?

But even as they grew past the days of me dressing them in smocked back-to-school dresses with matching hairbows – “What do you mean you don’t want to wear a dress with little red apples on it?” — we kept the first-day-of-school photo. In fact, unbelievably, we kept the tradition going into the I-can’t-believe-you’re-doing-this-to-me middle-school days and then into the mom-would-you-please-hurry-up-I’ve-got-to-go high-school days.

It became an inviolate part of the first day of school in our family. No matter how sleepy or cranky they were, the girls would smile for the camera so I could get those first-day-of-school shots. They probably realized it was the only way I’d let them leave.

After she graduated high school, my older daughter lived at home and went to the University of North Alabama – and I managed to grab a couple first-day shots until she realized she could sneak out early and avoid the whole embarrassing ritual.

I had better luck with my younger daughter, though – with the help of technology. On her first day of class at college in Birmingham, she sent me a cell-phone photo of her smiling self heading out the dorm door. And she’s done that ever since.

And now, sitting in my kitchen where so many years before the girls had disappeared out the door for so many first days of schools, I was looking at the last photo of the last time that would happen.

Until about four years from now, that is – when grandson Capt. Adorable starts the process all over again.

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