Trip down memory lane
DescriptionThe memory of my old school returns
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When I was a boy I want to an elementary school a few blocks away from my house. It was a very traditional school building like many others in the city. It was dark brown brick with two stories on top of a basement. On the cold winter mornings I would walk to school on the dark lonely streets through my neighborhood. As I approached the school I would first walk by a rough black top lot with many oak trees standing in it. Along the sidewalk loomed a tall chain link fence that looked like it had a dozen coats of silver paint applied to it. My eyes would look up through the fence to see the soft glow from the windows, and a column of smoke rising from the chimney. My step would quicken as I thought of how good it would feel to be with my classmates and friends inside the warm well light room. Most days I'm sure I wasn't too eager to go to school, but once I arrived I was glad to be there. The school was torn down in 1974 when I was ten years old. As I watched the wrecking ball crash through the walls I thought of how most boys would be glad to see their school being destroyed. At the time I was slightly sad to indifferent to about the event. Decades past and I rarely gave it a thought, but today I would love to walk those halls or see those class rooms. I would love to thank all those teachers for all the love and care they poured in to me. Every couple of years I return home to visit my dad and my sister. One fall morning my sister dropped me off very early on her way to work so I could spend the day with my dad. With a few hours to kill I went for a walk around my old neighborhood in the cool dark misty morning. I went to the park across the street that I used the play in, and I visited the houses of the friends I used to know. All the time I had never seen another person or even a moving car. I was reminded of my walks to school on mornings like this as a boy so I made the two block trek just as I had in the past. All I saw with my eyes was a row of dark quiet houses. The only hint that it was ever there was in my memory. Then I saw something I had not noticed before. The oak trees were still standing there. I walked over and placed my hand on one of them. I looked up the tree trunk and softly said "I remember you" Then I looked into the cool, dark mist of the morning and I could remember the warm glow of light through the windows, and my classmates looking out. I walked the sidewalk and remembered the tall silver chain link fence that bordered the black top lot. I remembered how eager I was to open that big brown hardwood door and go inside. Soon I was walking up the warn steps that led me to the first floor hallway. The long, wide granite floor that shined in the soft morning sunlight was met by the bone white lath and plaster walls and the dark hardwood trim around the classroom doors. As I stood there in the dark morning mist I was able to see things that I would never had seen in the bright light of day. When reality finely overtook my vision I turned to walk slowly home to visit my dad in our old house. I met him on the back porch as he was tossing bread crumbs to a small gathering of sparrows. The next morning my sister dropped me off on the same corner, only this time it was to catch a bus to the airport for my journey home. I thought I was the only one stirring on another cool misty morning in the neighborhood. Suddenly a woman approached the corner to wait for the bus like me. Instead of standing there in an awkward silence I told her how glad I was to see someone else on the corner because it must mean the bus will be here soon. She said she lived just down the street, and that she caught this bus every morning to go to work. The bus soon arrived to pick her up and I boarded behind her. We sat close to one another so we could talk. She looked at me like she remembered me from somewhere and then called me by my older brother’s name. I told her I was his younger brother. I had no idea she had grown up in this neighborhood since she was a generation before me. As the bus rolled past the school she asked if I remembered going there. I was amazed to hear someone else have an interest in it, and shot back an enthusiastic yes. She went on to say how much she missed the old place, as I nodded my head in agreement. Before I could say anything she brightened up as told me about how those old oak trees were still standing there. I beamed with amazement at her awareness of that fact, and let her know how I was just there yesterday morning with my hand on one of those trees thinking of the same thing. I guess I'm not the only one who holds the old place in their memory. When I got settled in at home the next day I began a search for any record of my old school. I could not find a shred evidence that it ever existed until I found the state historical society had a record of the closing of the school in 1974. It’s in the form of a bulletin and a copy is available to anyone who asks. I had them mail one out to me, and was excited to see it arrive a few days later. The picture is very bad, but inside is a list of the teachers I had and the administrators I remembered. I'm left to console myself with the reality that the memory is probably better then the real thing, and some things are never really appreciated until they are gone.