"It's very windy in the trees so I'm happy to go to school today because I don't like the wind," said Niamh Kelly, 4, as she tucked her hand behind her back to make sure her bag pack was secure.
At 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, September 7, Niamh joined dozens of other Irish children outside Yonkers Montessori Academy on Wakefield Avenue for their first day at school.
Many pre-kindergarteners grabbed tightly to their parent’s, hands unsure what to expect from "big school." Others were so excited to see friends from their neighborhood that the seriousness of school had no effect on them.
Lauren Kelly, 4, a friend of Niamh's, told the Irish Voice that she was "excited" about the very first day of her school life.
"I'm going to draw pictures and learn how to do my ABCs, "shared Lauren after a bit of coaxing from her mother Karen, a Co. Clare native now living in Yonkers with her husband, Declan (from Co. Leitrim) and family.
“It will be a surprise what happens,” added Lauren.
For the Dorrian clan Tuesday was a very special day. Seven of the family, some for the first time, were getting ready to start a new year at school.
Julie Dorrian, from Co. Kerry, now living in Yonkers with her husband Conor (a native of Co. Down) and five children, had her hands full trying to coax the kids into getting excited about their first day of school. Dorrian's five kids include a set of four-year-old triplets who were showing every sign of uncertainty about what lay ahead.
Niamh, Bronagh and Hugh (the triplets) stood shyly by their mother’s side as they grappled with the idea of venturing into the unknown.
Niamh confidently said she thinks school will teach her "how to make crafts," while Hugh and Bronagh said all they knew about school was "homework."
The triplets’ older siblings Ruairi, 7, and Saoirse, 5, have been attending the Montessori Academy for a few years, so they are all too familiar with the homework assignments.
Joining these five Dorrians were their two cousins, Aileen, 6, and Kiera, 7, both Dorrians too.
While the schoolyard began to fill up with nervous parents and anxious children the Dorrian clan, accompanied by their mothers, Julie and Noreen Dorrian, and the children’s grandmother, Helen, kept each other company under a shaded tree.
As the teachers called the children to their classrooms, each one of the seven Dorrian children obediently followed through the doors of the school and onto their assigned classrooms. This they did without a fuss.
"The triplets are all going to be in different classes so they will be separated from day one," said Julie.
Noreen, who is married to Declan Dorrian, made sure each of her own children were settled into the classroom and ready for the year ahead.
“They’re fine now,” said Noreen, happy that everything went smoothly.
Little Shane Byrne arrived to the schoolyard looking eager and excited. With a spiky hair-do and a Sponge Bob Square Pants backpack, Shane, 4, led his older sister Ava, 5, and Dylan, 7, through the doors of his new school.
Mom Fidelma (of Co. Louth) and dad Fergal Byrne (of Co. Monaghan) smiled proudly as their second youngest took to the idea of school like a duck to water.
"We only have one more to go now," laughs Fidelma, looking over at her youngest Jenna, 2.
Shane was most excited about “eating lunch” during his first day of big school. Everything else, it seemed, he would take in his stride.
Aoibhe Charles, 4, clung to her mom as dozens of other parents and children descended upon the schoolyard.
Aoibhe, daughter of Sandra Feeney Charles and Anthony Charles, originally of Co. Galway and Co. Cavan, told the Irish Voice she looked forward to drawing pictures in school.
"Singing too," shared Aoibhe shyly.
Donning a pink Dora the Explorer bag, Aoibhe looked around to see if she recognized other children in the school yard.
When asked if she will learn her ABCs in pre-kindergarten, Aoibhe was quick to inform the Irish Voice that she already knew them.
As the time for school quickly approached, excited children began pulling their parents towards the door while others hid behind their mother’s or father’s legs, some even in their arms.
Just before it was time to go into her new school, Niamh Kelly returned to the Irish Voice.
“I forgot to say that I will learn to draw but I know how to draw a house already,” she said nodding.
“But I don’t know how to draw a dress and I like dresses so I hope my teacher can teach me to do that today. Can you ask the teacher?” asked Niamh.
Realizing it was time to go into school, Niamh’s older brother Ronan, 7, came to find her and took her by the hand.
“Come on,” said Ronan.
Tuesday was also Kayla Rooney’s first day of big school. No stranger to the school yard, she has been accompanying her big brother Jack to the school door every day for the past two years. Kayla was one of the most excited children ready for her big day.
Kayla, whose mother Siobhan hails from Co. Clare and dad Mike Rooney from Co. Galway, shared an excited “yes” when asked if she was looking forward to her new school.
“I will play in school with my friends,” shared Kayla.
Jack, her big brother, took his sister by the hand to guide her into the building and promised to show her the ropes if she was lost. However, Kayla didn’t look like a lady who would need assistance.
One by one children and their parents filtered through the school doors, leaving only the really scared ones outside. One young Irish boy was so distraught his mother had to promise him she would buy him a dog if he stopped crying. That didn’t even work.
A little girl donning a red backpack told her mother she was “scared.”
“You will see all your friends,” said the worried mother in response.
As the sun shone brightly overhead and one by one parents parted with their babies, a crowed gathered at a breakfast table -- complimentary of Eileen’s Country Kitchen on McLean Avenue in Yonkers -- to share stories.
One mother, who had a tissue to dry away her tears, asked a veteran mother, “Does it get any easier?”
The reply she received: “Absolutely. When you get home and realize you can go for a four hour nap without any disturbances, you’ll then know how wonderful school really is.”
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