On Thursday morning, three crows of a battery-powered rooster began the first day of Melia Glover’s elementary career.
It was the way the 5-year-old wanted to wake up on her first day as a Chestnut Mountain Elementary student. Melia specifically asked her mother, Sherry Glover, to use the toy rooster as her alarm clock.
Accustomed to "easing into her day," Melia awoke Thursday morning with a smile on her face.
With her pencils packed in her pink bookbag the night before, Melia had been excited about every aspect of exploring the unknown territory of kindergarten long before she was allowed to go there.
Melia had planned the outfit for her first day of kindergarten days before it was time to wear it, choosing a pink suit depicting her favorite pink-dress wearing Disney Princess, Aurora.
Understanding first impressions at an early age, Melia instead opted to wear the chosen outfit to meet her teacher, Trish Dew, at open house held the day before school started.
"I wanted to do it (at open house), because I wanted the teacher to see it so she’ll like it," Melia said Thursday morning as she, delighted by her decision, prepared to don different first-day duds.
Her mother, on the other hand, was a little more apprehensive about kindergarten than her daughter. Melia had excelled in pre-kindergarten classes, so it was not her daughter’s abilities that Sherry Glover doubted.
"At preschool ... it’s in a church, and, I don’t know, I maybe feel like they’re a little more protective and that maybe people have the same views as you do or whatever," Sherry Glover said. "Then they go to a school. It’s bigger and lots of different people (are) there and ... you always hear, you know, all the dangers of school."
In the days leading up to the first day, Sherry Glover said she wondered if her daughter understood how real kindergarten would be different from pre-K.
"I don’t know if she perceives the depth of school-school," Glover said Monday.
Thursday morning as she helped Melia get ready for school, flat-ironing her hair and helping her dress, Glover said she tried not to think about how her own life was about to change, too.
For four years before her son, Cooper, was born, the stay-at-home mom spent all her time with Melia.
"For a long time, it was just the two of us," Glover said.
Like many parents, Glover said she worried about not being able to protect her daughter as she entered kindergarten in a public school — the real world.
As Melia’s first-day breakfast — cinnamon rolls — baked in the oven, Tim Glover admitted his daughter’s first day of school would have more of an impact on his wife’s life than his own.
"I’m at work all day, and when I get home, she’ll be home, so it won’t be much different," he said.
For his wife, though: "If I didn’t have (Cooper) to keep me busy then, I don’t know..."
"Then you’d probably be up at the school all day," her husband of 13 years said, finishing the sentence for her.
Adding to their first-day jitters, the family had agreed to let The Times follow Melia on her first day. Though Sherry Glover was a little anxious about an intrusion on a private family milestone, Melia seemed to take nicely to being followed around by a photographer and reporter, later telling classmates that she was going to be a movie star.
As the big day dawned, Melia was more than ready to become a kindergartner. Within an hour of Thursday’s 6:15 a.m. wake-up call, she was waiting in the kitchen with the keys to her parents’ minivan in hand.
Minutes later, Melia was walking down the hall of her new school, holding her mother’s hand.
It soon came time to let go, and mother and daughter both had tears in their eyes. With her mother no longer in sight, Melia silently sobbed at her desk.
In an attempt to raise her new student’s spirits, Dew made promises of a fun-filled day.
Dew said Melia responded: "‘But I can’t have fun without my mommy.’"
It was not long, though, before Melia sat in a circle with her classmates and told her teacher that she was not sad for her mother anymore, Dew said.
By lunchtime, there was no doubt that Melia had a change of heart and discovered that she was capable of having fun without her mother.
"It’s great!" she said as she scooped spoonfuls of orange Italian Ice into her mouth, in search of the orange stain it likely would leave on her tongue. "Is my tongue orange yet?"
While Melia was having fun at school, Sherry Glover said she tried distract herself from her daughter’s absence. She had lunch with a friend, went shopping and back at home, did her best to avoid looking at the scores of Melia’s pictures that seemed to smile back at her from every corner.
Still, Glover said she could not keep herself from checking Melia’s class schedule and imagining what her daughter might be doing at specific moments throughout the day.
She wondered if her daughter would eat enough.
"Is she going to eat when lunchtime comes, or is she going to sit there and play and talk? I just want to make sure she had something in her tummy, because she didn’t hardly eat her breakfast — two bites of her cinnamon roll," Glover said.
Without her 5-year-old showboat dancing to commercials and constantly demanding her attention as she had every afternoon, Thursday was markedly different.
"It was just like total silence in the house," Glover said.
In the silence, Glover had time to second-guess decisions she had made about her daughter’s school.
Glover said she wondered if opting to enroll her daughter in the K-1 class, a class mixed with first-graders and kindergartners, was going to be too overwhelming for her daughter.
"I mean, did we do the right thing putting her in that class the first time in school?" Glover said.
The day passed quicker than Glover said she expected it to, and shortly after 2 p.m., she waited in her minivan behind a line of parents in the driveway of Chestnut Mountain Elementary School.
As the minivan crept closer to the school entrance Thursday afternoon and Glover neared her daughter’s embrace, she slapped her hands together, rubbing them back and forth in eager anticipation. Glover was anxious to see her little girl.
"This morning, I was really sick to my stomach when we were pulling up here," Glover recalled.
Then Melia appeared, and when she spotted her mother’s vehicle, a grin did, too. Instead of waiting for her daughter to be escorted to the minivan, Glover jumped out to greet her, grabbing her up like the little girl she had been before her first day of school.
With the first day at an end, Glover said she knew her daughter’s independence was just beginning.
"Now she’s really growing up, now she’s really ... I don’t know, she’s moving on up."
But "she’ll always be my little girl."
Tucked back in her familiar booster seat, Melia The Kindergartner told her mother about her nice new teachers, the school’s big library, the lunchroom’s vittles and making handprints.
"It was great, Mama."
And, as her parents had suspected would happen, Melia already had made a new friend, one who wore a purple dress, and had purple glue and a blue backpack with a frog on it.
Her new friend’s name was the sole detail that had managed to escape Melia’s memory.