Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Elementary School Remembered

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.


  1. I had the experience of beginning school in a country school where one room had first through third grades with one teacher which enabled that teacher to move us up to different grade level work if we were ready. The school consolidated with a bigger district by my second grade and I had to redo the whole thing because it didn't have that capability. There also was no bus for that first school which led to about a mile and a half walk to and from. I am still amazed that I did that at that age when I see how small my grandchildren are when they are in first grade. Some of the walk was heavily wooded but my mother would generally meet me at the beginning of that part and walk me back up with my small brother.

  2. I have fond memories of my elementary school too. I remember just adoring our principal. Young and good looking. When I was in college, I went back to interview him for a paper I was writing for elementary ed. I still was enamored with him.

    I have no recollection though of carrying a backpack in elementary school. Think I just carried my books with paper inside them. I do remember getting a Jansport one in intermediate school and I had an Eddie Bauer one for high school and college.

    My girls carry ones from L.L. Bean. My nine year-old did have a rolling backpack for two years, but then decided she didn't want the weight of that one and pulling. She's very fickle about backpacks, purses etc... Hubby says that if it's a vessel for putting things in, she will do it. We are constantly finding purses with make-up, toys and little knick-knacks in them. And she's gone crazy for markers and pens. Not sure where she got that little habit from...

    Don't feel too bad about not remembering some of what went on in elementary school. You have remembered what's important and I love the fact that your dad collected a brick for you when school #1 was demolished. That's so lovely.

    Have a great day.

    Megan xxx

  3. I was a senior at Mesa High School in 1968 (yes, revealing my age here!)when our main building burned down on a Sunday night early in Oct. Electrical problems were discovered in a summer inspection of the building ... but the fire was the weekend after our Jackrabbits beat crosstown rivals the Westwood Warriors (yes, only 2 high schools in Mesa in those days)in football, so rumors were rampant. I had just staked out my editor's desk in the journalism cottage and convinced my staff it was MY desk, but the fire caused all the admin offices to move into the journalism cottage and the newspaper and yearbook staffs had to share a regular classroom for the rest of the year. Ah, the old days.

  4. My friend, Xtreme English, posted a writing prompt about third grade and I was off like a shot, words tumbling over words. I should use prompts more often. The stuff I forgot is massive, but the stuff I remembered...there just wasn't enough room for it.

    I was hypnotized once to learn how it felt. I was asked to return to fifth grade. I could smell the dust in the cracks between planks in the hardwood floors. I could name all those seated near me. With all that in there, no wonder we can't call it up when our mind is in its day-to-day state; there's a huge bottleneck at the recall turnstile.

    And how DID we get those books from place to place?! There were a lot of them.

  5. If I remember correctly I wrote a report about my rolling backpack, the prompt being something to the tune of: tell us something you are proud of, that makes you stand out.

    Then there was the year I had the mesh backpack. That made absolutely no sense...

  6. Sitting in the first row was all the rage. But it just wasn't me.
    compare airport parking
    meet and greet Luton


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