Watching the schoolkids last night, I got to thinking about School #1. I walked to the end of Benjamin Road and waited for the bus to carry me off.
It was neither called nor considered a campus. It was just School One, with a boys' side and a girls' side to the playground and the steepest staircase in the world inside the oversized front doors. I remember going in the side doors most of the time, which was much better since the staircase only went halfway as far as the main one.
Kindergarten was in the basement, as were the lunch tables. We had a cafeteria, with hair-netted ladies ladling multi-colored glop onto heavy white ceramic plates. In first grade those plates were frighteningly weighty; I mostly brought my lunch.
We had coat closets instead of hooks in the hallway, and my first grade classroom had its own bathroom. In second grade we looked out the window to the flagpole in the driveway. Third grade was in the corner and fourth and fifth were next door to one another, which really felt like cheating. It seemed only fair that I get to explore a different corner of the building every year. Sixth grade was upstairs in the other corner and we moved from room to room for math and social studies and science. That was the only time I didn't have to sit first row first seat; the social studies teacher let us choose our own spots. I raced to the window and sat two rows back. I felt like another person.
Did we have backpacks? I don't think so. Did I carry my books in anything special? I cannot remember. I know that I used an elasticized band with two silver clasps to hold my books together in junior high, but that might have been a fashion statement rather than a utilitarian one. I know I had homework and I know I brought it back to school..... I just don't know how.
Allow me a moment to mourn the passage of time, the loss of memory, the absence that is the gap a present-but-demented mother leaves when her child cannot ask for a reminder. I won't be long...........
While I was away, I tried to recall what the Cuters had used for totes. Jansport backpacks while we were in California, except for the year when Little Cuter used a rolling backpack and bravely withstood the jeers of her peers as she kept her friend-with-a-back-problem company. The friend gave up quickly; my kid was so aggravated at her classmates that she stuck with it out of spite.
But when they were little? I remember studying spelling words and writing stories and doing math pages but I don't remember packing them up and sending them out the door the next morning. I can tell you which year he wore the University of Michigan cap (5th grade) and when she was Pippi Longstocking (kindergarten) but I cannot conjure an image of them carrying a book bag.
I'm thinking about this because my college at the University has opened a brand new building. The old one was demolished because it was unsafe. It was the building in which I had most of my classes. It is the space I conjure when I consider my college. I remember the smell of the classrooms and the feel of the desks and the tables. I'm having a hard time with the fact that it is gone.... just as I did when they tore down School #1.
Daddooooo understood just how I felt; he went to the site and saved me a brick. That, and my fading memories, are all that is left.