GOING BACK TO SCHOOL…WAY BACK
by Lydia Bogar
The front portico is high and wide, the double-doors are candy apple red, circa 1927, and the large windows face the steps and the street, Kids stream down those steps just as we did 60 years ago.
Buses have brought the street to a complete standstill while parents idle at the curb or stand on the grass with their charges’ younger siblings and dogs.
Way back…we walked to and from school, including a roundtrip walk for lunch, bologna on Wonder Bread with butter and relish.
Holding my camera, I approach the double doors, and a woman approaches me. “Can I help you?”
“Thank you yes, I graduated from Thorndyke a hundred years ago and I’d like to see the mural in the cafeteria. Still in the basement?”
She did not ask for identification, but I pulled out my sixth-grade graduation photo to show her anyway.
“Of course. Let me get these stragglers to their bus, and I’ll walk you down.”
The corridors are not as wide as I remember, nor do the ceilings seem as high. The girls’ bathroom and Mrs. Murphy’s third grade to my right. Art work covers the walls. We chat as we walk along and more kids escape their classrooms.
I look into my fifth-grade classroom, my row by the window shining in the afternoon sunlight.
My teacher scolding me for chewing my fingernails; he didn’t know that Daddy was dying.
My escort stops to talk to a beleaguered woman on the stairs. The woman is crying and immobilized with fear or doubt or something negative that doesn’t belong in this happy place. She has missed meeting her daughter. She is stoned, hungover, or maybe both. I proceed to the library on my own.
The library and cafeteria are empty, as is the janitor’s closet. I take my pictures of the mural. Everything is very clean. No food odors of any kind … but maybe a hint of Girl Scout cookies if I try hard enough.
“Girl Scouts line-up, single file, and start outside. Please stop so I can lock the door.”
The stairs beckon me, and I pause to photograph “The Addition” which was built for the kindergarten, first, and second grades when I was in the third. It all looks so mid-century. I am mid-century.
I try to stretch and expand my memories as another teacher approaches. Of course, I am a stranger with a camera inside a school.
“Hall monitors please stand on the side of the corridor and let the kindergarteners go out first. Thank you.”
The principal’s office is now a SPED room and handicapped bathroom. I find the “new” offices and explain myself to another teacher.
“Mrs. Anders, I cut my finger on the oaktag in class. Can I have a Band-Aid?”
It’s time for this teacher to go home, and she moves to walk me out. I ask if I can open the door to the storage closet that we used to call the Cookie Closet. Paper, folders, ink cartridges, and trash bags–but no cookies.
“I don’t like Fig Newtons–they’re stinky. I would like two packages of Lorna Doones. Here’s my dime.”
Before I turn off my camera and walk back to my car, I walk along the south side of the building toward the playground. Thousands of dollars of colorful equipment in rainbow colors, a lot of purple and green pipes, and yellow swing seats.
BUT there it is! What I had hoped for – the double trunk tree that was our “Hide and Go Seek” base.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three …”
I will savor the photographs another time. Now I stand in silence, thankful for this beautiful place and these intact memories.
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woostah–educated at BOLLI.”