(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Senior Sonja Hansen, her sister, junior Bianca, her mother Deborah and her sister, fourth grader Morgan, wait for a table at Fireside Pizza Company in Olympic Valley in 2007.

The beginning of my senior year is upon us. After 12 years as the matriarch of this school, I’ll finally be moving on. Wipe your tears, though, because I’ll probably visit next year when my sister Bianca graduates if there’s nothing better to do on that day.

At times like these, when the end of one phase of life is fast approaching, one tends to reminisce about how it all began.

My debut at Country Day started with a tantrum, which was pretty rare for me.

I was 4 or 5 years old when my parents sat us down at our glass kitchen table in Maui while we were on vacation. They told us that they were considering switching from our current school, El Rancho, to Country Day.

I burst out crying and was inconsolable. How could I possibly leave El Rancho? It was a devastating blow, and I’m still recovering from the shock with my daily therapist.

But then my parents told me something else: “Country Day has a library. Two libraries.”

“Well, then that’s a whole different story,” I thought, pulling myself together.

“Oh. Okay, let’s go there then. When are we going? Can I go see the library? When can I visit? Can we go soon?”

(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Senior Sonja Hansen pretends to shoot a gun while dressed as Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant during a photoshoot before the fifth-grade Civil War re-enactment in 2010. Hansen had stuffed a pillow in her shirt to better resemble the Union general.

Even luckier for me, I would later get to meet then-librarian Cary Kelly and dozens of other amazing teachers, make great friends, and have life-changing experiences, blah, blah, blah.

It always seemed like I arrived at Country Day very suddenly or by magic. I never really considered the application process that we had to go through until just recently when my mother revealed that there had been only one tiny hitch: I wasn’t accepted to Country Day.

One day, a couple months after my parents had dropped the bombshell about Country Day, I shadowed kindergarten teacher Mari-Lu Langwell’s class. At some point in the day, I was whisked away to be interviewed by admissions director Lonna Bloedau.

I have no memory of what I said or what I was tested on, but whatever happened proved to the administration that I was definitely not someone to be trusted with access to two libraries.

While I was nearly dropkicked by admissions back to El Rancho, my younger sister Bianca was admitted.

All right, the actual reason was that my class was already too full to accept any newbies.

But just to add insult to injury, while I was nearly dropkicked by admissions back to El Rancho, my younger sister Bianca was admitted.

Then my parents met with the school a couple times, presented them with my STAR test results and let them know how much they really wanted me and my sister to go to the same school (meaning that we were a package deal, so if they wanted future Nobel Peace Prize recipient Bianca Hansen, her older sister, who couldn’t cut a straight line with scissors, had to attend as well).

(Photo used by permission of Sonja Hansen)
Senior Sonja Hansen hugs her best friend and former SCDS student Molly Gherini during the annual fifth-grade trip to Marin Headlands in 2011.

Another possibility is that I was on a waitlist and a spot opened up.

Who knows? It was 12 years ago. And either way, here I am! I just hope that getting into college isn’t as difficult. You can be a package deal with your siblings only so many times before it catches up to you.

Once I was for sure accepted into Country Day’s inner circle, my mom entered Bianca and me into SCDS’s summer day camp, now called Camp Cavalier.

The plan was to get us oriented to the campus and familiar with a couple of classmates. I don’t remember meeting any classmates, but I obviously was not a very observant child since I also didn’t know I was riding on Bianca’s coattails.

In March 2007 senior Sonja Hansen and her mother Deborah enjoy the Mothers’ Day Tea, when first graders give their mothers giant painted hats and presents and eat scones. Deborah was pregnant with Hansen’s little sister Morgan (now a fourth grader) at the time.

Summer camp was definitely the right way to introduce me to what kind of a school I was signing up for. We’d go on field trips to the pool or a Kings game every week, dress up for the different themes, do some crafts. When I think of those first few weeks, I remember how every single day was super fun, exciting and carefree.

I’ve definitely had some ups and downs with the school as I’ve gotten older and have learned of the administration’s more questionable choices, but it’s undeniable that this place shaped much of my childhood and who I am today. Unquestionably I’ve benefited immensely from this environment because it’s allowed me to be creative, adventurous and bold.

And now I have only 283 days left here (as of Aug. 27).

—By Sonja Hansen

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