Gratitude Sunday: My Old School

Gratitude * Sunday


Quote of the Week
– “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” Pearl S. Buck

Sunday Haiku
Soft rain, hard rain, hail,
snow, sun peeking between clouds
so brief, forgotten.

Sunday Musings
I grew up in a suburb just south of Portland, Oregon. The town I lived in had a small town feel, but we were large enough for a 1,600 person student body at the high school and two more high schools were added within a 10 mile radius because the area was growing quickly. The high school was built in 1925, and recently city residents voted to approve a bond for a new school. The little city I grew up in is tearing down the school, so Milwaukie High School hosted an open house for all us folks who might want to walk the halls of the old school one more time. My sister and I decided to go back.

The old building has undergone five remodels, with the addition of several new buildings to accommodate the growth of the suburb. Several of the zipcodes that used to indicate Milwaukie are now designated as Portland, so the little town is being absorbed into the Metro area, almost as if it never existed. It still exists as a separate entity, but close enough to the big city for many to catch a daily metro bus to work downtown.

Back in the day, we thought it fun to tell our parents we were going to the library, then drive the family car downtown Portland to cruise Broadway, which attracted kids from all corners of the metro area from Beaverton to Gresham, from Oregon City to St Johns. As immortal teenagers we gave little thought, if any, to the dangers of not being where we said we would be, or the possibility of car accidents between here and there. In fact, I could wheel the old family station wagon from downtown Broadway to the home driveway in Milwaukie in 12 minutes flat using back streets to beat the cops and the midnight curfew. I think Dad knew what I was doing as he was obsessive about recording mileage so he could calculate how many miles per gallon of gas he was getting. Fortunately, no accidents, no tickets, no trouble, all of which would not have boded well for the daughter of a county deputy sheriff.

Traffic today would not permit such haste on city streets even at night. Too many people, too many cars, too many stoplights, so much need for careful driving skills these days as people pay less attention to their surroundings or feel the need to text or be on the phone while driving. Back in the day, the landline was the only choice and we weren’t connected at the hip to our phones unless we were safely ensconced at home.

Walking through those old school hallways, everybody had a phone, but few people were spending time on them. Some were taking phone numbers from friends who hadn’t been seen for years. Some were reporting to those at home what was happening right now. Some were taking pictures of the old school. Most people were talking to each other (gasp!) and reminiscing about how the school used to be, about beloved teachers and hated classes, about events we remembered.

My sister did me the kindness of coming to get me and taking me to the open house. We talked about our memories and our nightmares. Her’s is running down the hall to get to her locker so she could get to class on time. Mine is about being naked in class, in the halls, in the cafeteria, in the gymnasium, in the auditorium. I know now that dreams of being naked in a public place represent feelings of being exposed, vulnerable, unable to protect oneself. How very much I felt that way in high school.

The five remodels had rendered my high school not my high school. The cafeteria, where we queued up for a turn at one of the first electronic table Pong games, had become administrative offices. The auditorium with the beautiful stage where we had put on our plays and musical productions was converted into the library the year after I graduated, and the original library on the third floor converted into classrooms. Condon’s, the little hamburger joint across the street that was always packed with students for lunch, study halls, and between classes, was bought out and torn down to make way for a new auditorium when the old one was converted. The new auditorium still could not contain the entire student body for one pep rally, which had to take place in the gymnasium, and that expense of tax dollars never made sense to me (why not make it big enough?). Entire walls of lockers were removed to bump out classrooms to make more space for students, making the halls narrower. All those changes made the high school I walked through this month not the high school I walked through nearly 50 years ago.

We didn’t find the little outside courtyard where kids went to smoke, a small space between building ells shielded from the eyes of administrators, teachers, and the public. Teachers and administrators smoked freely in the teacher’s lounge. Back in the day there was little repercussion if you were an under-age smoker. Everybody smoked, or tried it, as a rite of passage. The campus now is a no-smoking campus, as it should be, now we know the dangers of tobacco.

I located the staircase where I fell down and sprained my ankle my sophomore year. Back then the choir room was behind the stage of the auditorium and was sometimes used during plays as a place to prepare, rehearse, and change costumes especially for the musicals when we had large choruses and many bodies for costume changes. The staircase went from the choir room/backstage area as a short-cut down to the cafeteria. I was hurrying one day and swoosh, down I went, falling into a pile of flesh and bone at the bottom of the stair. I was alone. I managed to limp myself to the nurse’s office; she wrapped my foot, and sent me home, which meant I had to call my mother to come get me. The remodels oddly made the staircase go from a remodeled classroom hallway down to the remodeled cafeteria/administrative office area, like some surrealistically distorted dream version of reality, but it was the same staircase.

When Mom got me home she called our doctor’s office and the nurse advised her what we now know as the RICE treatment; rest, ice, compression, elevation. I was allowed to stay home for a week, and kept off my foot, mostly confined to bed, which meant I wasn’t allowed to take the few steps to the phone in the living room. I had my first boyfriend, and whined about not being able to take his phone calls. My folks didn’t approve of him; I was 15, he was 20, Asian-American, and a musician, which in those days meant trouble, even though his mother was a stay-at-home mom, his sister was my classmate, and his father was a professor at the University in the town I now live in. This boy sent me a get-well bouquet of miniature yellow roses. I’m such a saver I probably have the card that came with the bouquet, or maybe a pressed flower or two, though I could not walk right to those mementos now.

My sister found the hallway of her nightmares. Her locker was on the bottom floor, and running from the locker to a classroom on the third floor at the other end of the building was the problem. There was just not enough minutes between classes to comfortably get to class on time, and many of us dealt with similar logistics. I hope after seeing the hallway, her bad dreams change to something else.

I had wanted to tell Sis a story from my senior year, and as we were walking down the hallway it happened in, we came across a couple men (so tempting to say boys, because that’s what we were back then, still boys and girls, and that’s how I remember us) from my class and spent several minutes catching up and sharing stories with them. We were running out of time as the event had a finite run, so I decided to share my story with the guys as well as my sister.

I was late for class. The bell had rung; the halls were empty; everyone was in their classrooms except for me, alone, in the hall. I was going to my favorite class, Creative Writing, taught by a teacher who was famously psychic, and everybody knew it. She was highly regarded by students and other teachers, but lenient, and sometimes punishment for being late was to be sent across the street to the little hamburger joint with a handful of money to buy her hot French fries with a side of tartar sauce. The French fries had to be hot when you arrived back with them, and you weren’t allowed to nibble on them while in transit; she would smell your breath to make sure you didn’t cheat unless she’d given you enough to buy your own serving.

So here I am in the silent empty hallway, when suddenly a hand comes down on my shoulder. I thought for sure I was busted by the Vice Principal who was able to sneak up on kids who were late; how he walked so quietly I’ll never know. But when I turned, there was nobody in the hall. Nobody. Not only no physical body, but no quiver in the atmosphere, no rift in the timeline, not one squiggle of air movement or waver of dust motes to indicate the presence of a presence. The hand on my shoulder had been as solid as any other I’d ever felt. I hightailed it to class, arriving breathless and wide-eyed. My teacher, who rarely left her desk, stood, took my hands, and said, “Oh, another one.” She spent several minutes comforting me, making sure I was grounded in the real world, and told me she thought I had experienced a newly departed student/spirit who had returned to the school. In 1970 we were still in the midst of the Vietnam war, and she said many of our war-killed boys visited the school on their way to whatever their next spiritual adventure was. She thought it was likely I’d felt one of those boys. We never determined a name, but she comforted me, explaining when one is open to the world, one can experience amazing things.

My sister openly enjoyed the story in the hallway in which it occurred. The men we were with jokingly said, “well, right then, nice seeing you,” and pretended to have the willies. The thing is, they had both had this teacher, and knew not only her reputation as a psychic, but her integrity as well. We all shared a little shiver and went on about wandering the old hallways. Who knows how many long gone students roam those halls now, and will be displaced when the old building is razed and a new glass and steel facility stands in its place?

It was fun to see the variety of past students who showed for the event; I heard a rumor of more than 1,500 people in attendance that day. Elders in their 80s who had graduated back in the 1950s, and younger people who graduated a few years ago for whom the school was still the school they had known, and all those in between. I ran into a handful of classmates and we agreed if we were around for our 50th coming up soon, whatever we felt about high school or any of the past reunions, we should make an effort to get together just to acknowledge that we had made it this far. And we were probably grown up enough now to be adult with each other without power or bully games.

My school wasn’t the same school. It was not the school I see in my dreams. It felt like the river, you know, the one that is never the same river. Soon that lovely old building, as problematic as it was in thousands of student’s lives and dreams, will no longer exist in this physical reality, and there will be a new steel and glass construction in its place. The old building will exist only in our dreams proving once again, you can never go back. Forward is the only way you can go from my old school.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Love the first tiny sprigs of green chives popping up. Dime sized white violas that come back every year in my yard. It’s pink week in my little burg. The pink rhododendrons around my aquatic center are full on this week. I don’t know the name of these stings of tiny hot pink and white blossoms, though the flowers remind my of the little blooms on grape hyacinth. Streets lined with tangles of pink flowering cherry.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Snake Pit (1948, not rated) with Olivia de Havilland, about a women who becomes ill and ends up in a mental asylum. Seemed more like a documentary about the horrors of Electro-Convulsive Shock Therapy, and the benefits of talking psychotherapy. Fascinating how they decided to portray this back then. * Something the Lord Made (2004, not rated) based on a true story, with Alan Rickman as the Southern doctor, Alfred Blalock, who develops the blue baby heart surgery technique with his lab assistant. Rickman is clever about turning his British accent into an American Southern one. I did not realize this was a movie about race issues, until the lab assistant, Vivien Thomas, is revealed as the one who really developed the technique without benefit of a medical doctor’s degree while Blalock took the credit, and Thomas didn’t get the recognition he deserved until many years later as Blalock’s death neared. * Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017, not rated) a Netflix documentary about Joan’s life, marriage, and her writing, produced and directed by her nephew. She leaves us a legacy of her experiences of profoundly American events, recorded during the times they were happening.

Currently ReadingA Secret History of Witches (2017, fiction) by Louisa Morgan. Fluffy summer reading, written simplistically and fancifully, i.e, don’t look for factual information about witchcraft here. And word of warning: don’t try these frivolous fictional “spells” at home. All energy expenditure has a cost, witchery or otherwise. * Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000, history) by Rebecca Solnit. A foray into philosophy and walking. Ms Solnit writes way above my intellectual level, even so, I always learn something.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Interns, who work for my state and federal Representatives and Senators, who listen patiently to my concerns about the current federal administration.
  • Spending a few minutes pausing to enjoy a waxing crescent moon smiling at me when I left the pool.
  • Fixing my DVD player when it stopped mid-movie and failed to play any other disc I put in. The techno-ditz prevails again.
  • Enjoying spring day number three listening to the breeze rustling the tree branches while watching plum blossoms fall like snow.
  • March coldly stomping through, not giving up the lion. Spring will be here soon.
  • Opportunities like walking through my old school and glad somebody organized it.
  • A quiet couple of weeks at the pool for spring break.
  • Mister Kitty aka George Murphy finally being trained to bother me every hour because he wants food. Good to stretch.
  • My sister being the forgiving person she is when I talk rudely to her and then feel bad about it. Grateful we are able to talk about it.
  • Asparagus. And being the only person in the family who loves it. More for me.
  • A bag of really sweet mandarins.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Education, Entertainment, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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