In search of story

May 27.21: Coping



High school.

Do the words send you running? Or do you wistfully look back and linger?

I am not a reunion person. I go back only in my head, where I can be mid-century instantly, without having to see my senior picture again.

Those were manically formative years; our senior selves bore little resemblance to our freshman selves. Perhaps no other life storm, except a newborn, telescopes so much change into a short time.

My high school was built in 1914. My mother had walked those halls before me. Only the students changed. Then came 1967, the fire and renovations, and everything changed. So it’s a good thing I’ve kept the old school in my head, where time hasn’t touched it.

The main staircase — all three stories of it — was my favorite part. Each stair was worn in two places, where feet went up and where feet went down. Saddle shoes, penny loafers, all stepping to the bells.

This is that staircase, these the main doors. There would come a last opening outward and I couldn’t wait. I was so done with homework! And then, to my astonishment, I cried. At the last concert, the band president presented the traditional senior farewell gift to our saintly director, as I stood off-stage behind the curtains. And suddenly I sobbed. I was totally unprepared for that. To paraphrase a contemporary philosopher: What? Me miss high school?

But dust to dust, yes, dear reader? The building is about to become a parking lot for the educational Acropolis rising next to it.

My old classmate Ann says it was a dump when we were there, but I loved its oldness. Dark wood. Room numbers painted on transoms. Tall windows. Wood desks that never heard of ergonomics.

I find myself clutching certain memories more tightly because memories do reside in things. When the things are gone, will the memories also be gone? While walls stand, a little part of us can say it’s not over. It’s a nice deception. And then it’s a parking lot.


With thanks to photographer and classmate Art Lindeman.

Submitted to Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors Writing Challenge.



17 thoughts on “May 27.21: Coping

  1. It will never be a parking lot in your mind. It will always be the historic, character laden building you remember. I went north this week to the land of my childhood. Although many buildings are decrepit now, they shine in my mind, and that’s the way they will stay. My grandparents farm house and attached barn were painted white, surrounded by flowers, and grass pastures. Today, well, not so much. When we drove by, I gave it a glance but didn’t linger because I don’t want that to be my memory. Silly? Probably, but I like my good memories. High school, I never missed and never ever considered a reunion. 🙂

  2. That’s not silly at all! Not to me! There are many places I revisit only in my head for that very reason: I don’t want the image of Now to replace the memory of Then. Your grandparents’ farm is beautiful in my head and I didn’t even know them!

  3. I always imagine you as loving school, so you surprised me. Your reference to the staircase surprised me too, then I recognised what you were saying, as so often and remembered the bustle of rushing up and down stairs and along corridors between classes. My first ‘big school’ seemed very big. It had a mezzanine floor and you could not get to all levels from all staircases, which has often featured in dreams since – the song title ‘Can’t get there from here’ always makes me smile.

    • I don’t know that song, but I sure know the feeling! As for loving school, no, I didn’t. There have been teachers along the way I will forever bless and admire, but mostly not so much. However, I have to admit that my high school education was a good one, and I am grateful for it. As youngsters, we do see a new school as a vast jungle, the bigger the scarier. Actually, new teachers feel the same way! Nothing like teaching to make one a student again!

  4. Thank you for joining the challenge with this wonderful memory. I’m sure that school will remain a powerful image of a wonderful turning point in your life. Next year will be my 50th reunion – I won’t be going, but I will mark the day in my mind. I read your description of the staircase to my wife. The saddle shoes and penny loafers got to her 😉

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    • This year is our 60th! Many memories are already being dusted off. I’m glad to know that saddle shoes and penny loafers resonated with your wife. (I kept my saddle shoes through college and would wear them occasionally just to appall my sorority sisters.)

      A wonderful weekend to you, too!

  5. The I visit Buffalo I do a “drive-by” of my high school

  6. Forever the nostalgic drive!

  7. Lovely memories! Your school is to be a parking lot, my home town long ago became a lake. Sometimes memories are the only way to “go home again,” so we cling to them and can thus visit once more.

    • I do think of the fate of your hometown when I drive near the Geist Reservoir. It’s quite a literally haunted feeling. Indeed memories are the only way home because that’s the only place home is. And that’s one of the reasons family histories, such as you have dug into, are so very important. Words and pictures are the preservatives, yes?

  8. Ah, memories (some not fond!) I missed my 50th by sheer duh-ness, but it turns out everyone thought I was dead anyway (same name, different girl).

    I grew up in an ancient harbor town; I pray there are still transoms here & there, but what a joy to see that word!

    • Goodness, it would be distressing to be thought dead by one’s classmates! But at the same time it would be highly satisfactory to know they were wrong.

      As for memories, oh, yes: always a mixed bag.

  9. My elementary school now exists only in my memory. It held a reunion for alumni before they demolished it, which I thought was wonderful. My mother had gone to that school, too, and possibly my grandfather. He claimed he had the same Kindergarten teacher that I did, but I KNOW he was teasing about that. I think. She SEEMED old enough to wee me. My husband’s uncles and sisters went there, too. Maybe he and his brothers did, but they weren’t as nostalgic about it as we were. We could (and those of us who are still around still can) sing the elementary school “fight” song! Loved this post!

    • Thank you! I got a good laugh out of your grandfather’s claim that he also had your kindergarten teacher. I hope she didn’t hear that! Quite a few of the teachers in my high school had also been my mother’s teachers, but that’s a far cry from a grandparent’s! It sounds as though your elementary school had very deep roots in the community. One hopes that schools that have served well will be remembered long after their buildings are gone.

  10. Our high school holds an ‘all Years’ version so that many can gather and see grads from many years. It’s kind of odd to me and I get what they’re trying to do, but I’ve never went. Our own class had a reunion a few years ago for just us and I was even on the planning group, but still, never went. No regrets. lol

    • Reunions aren’t for everybody, but for those who enjoy them they’re a good thing, and the people who put them together deserve big thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.