My old school

The campus of my high school alma mater once consisted of a series of brick buildings interconnected by covered breezeways or open-air sidewalks which cut through swatches of lawn. Several years ago, the school underwent a major renovation in which it was entirely enclosed. The main building around which huddled smaller buildings of various sizes are now one cohesive unit. The outdoor quadrangle where I once flipped backwards over my bookbag while trying to escape a rogue attack bee is now the cafeteria and is enclosed by a sweeping, two-story, skylit dome. What I knew as the front of the school is now the side entrance.

From the outside the school looks shiny, new, and oddly misplaced, like an outcropping of transported modern architecture sitting amid edifices from another era. The blend of old and new on the interior is disorienting; the original map of the school remains, but indoor classrooms now lay where there was once open grass. I step out of one hall expecting to meet open air and instead there is a new wing. The new halls and classrooms, with their swanky design, are intertwined throughout the old (which received not the slightest facelift and are every bit as crusty as they were when I was in attendance).

It's funny how things change.

A couple of months ago, we took our 8th graders on an orientation tour of the high school. The students were broken down into smaller groups of about fifteen and were escorted through the school by uniformed JROTC officers, seniors with the glint of graduation in their eager eyes.

As we wandered through the old/new school, stopping here or there to learn about the library or the language lab and so on, I could see the ghosts of years gone by lingering in the halls. This is the bathroom where I used to change for after school marching band rehearsal. Here is the bench where that '80's day picture in the yearbook was taken. This is where Frank kissed me after the pep rally that night. That classroom used to be the open space in front of the band and chorus rooms where my friends and I spent every morning laughing like a pack of hyenas. This is where I pranced around in a hot pink tutu, red Converse sneakers laced with ballet ribbons up to the knee, rainbow suspenders, and bright blue eyeshadow in the role of the Fairy Godperson in the one-act play "Cinderella Wore Combat Boots."

High school – it's the springboard from which many of us take that first leap into life. It's the first fork in the road, the one where like in the Frost poem, you crane your neck to see as far down each path as you can, knowing that you likely won't be able to go back and travel the road not taken.

So I couldn't help but wonder as I wandered — if I had accepted the drama scholarship and attended university away from home instead of staying at home and working full time in the school system while attending evening classes at a local college, where would I be? If I'd chosen the other contender for my heart, what might our life have looked like? Would I still have become who I am today? Would I feel braver than I do? Could I have made better choices? Where would I have ended up? Would I still be me?

I could feel an almost-panic rising. It was the old, familiar anxiety of yesteryear, a youthful angst which reverberated from the recesses of past memories and thrummed through the school's exposed, 40-year old brick walls along which I traced my fingers as I walked.

We neared the band room, the source of majority of both the best and worst of my high school memories. My disquiet crescendoed in synchrony with the music, which spilled from the band room and echoed out into the now-enclosed, high-ceilinged hallway. As we drew closer, I slowly became aware that I knew the tune being rehearsed, and I froze with sudden recognition of the fortuitous, symbolically-appropriate song. The strong, bold and driven, allegro non troppo melody was the theme music to Superman.

For once, the Universe responded to an Unanswerable.

As the notes swirled around me and filled my ears, it was then that I knew with certainty that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

7 Comments

  1. Deshaine on May 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Everything happens for a reason…
    You were meant to be the person you are to help others be able to be the person they’re meant to be: parents.



  2. Betty M on May 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    We need photos of “Cinderella wore combat boots”. I am glad you are where you are and sharing that with us.



  3. coffeegrl on May 7, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    What a trip down memory lane. I’m not sure how I’d feel about seeing my old high school. I have some fond memories of the “music wing” because it was something of a safe haven for me. But the rest of it- terrible memories. I’m so glad that you found some “inspiration” (is that the right word?) while you were there.



  4. My Reality on May 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I don’t think you could pay me enough money to go back to my old high school. I think in many ways, it kept me from living up to my full potential.



  5. Kristin on May 7, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I am damned glad you are where you are suppose to be because that means I’ve become friends with an incredible woman.
    And, if you are gonna call me a thug, I’m going to call you a DivaThug…bwahahahaha



  6. JessPond on May 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    What a wonderful post!
    There are so many paths a life can take…but making the most of the one you choose is a gift, and you’re doing it, you really are.
    This post made me sad in parts because as you told about your old school and some of your memories, I could picture many of the same things in my old high school…Travis and I growing up, growing together, proms, senior year, 9/11 (yes, I’m like 12, what of it?), his cousin’s death….except I see it all in a school that no longer exsists because our district tore down our old building and built a new one. Shiny and beautiful, but the memories are not mine at all. Nor are they the memories of my parents, who also grew up and together in that old HS.
    Now I’m all teary and that wasn’t even the point.
    PMS sucks. 🙂



  7. WhichBox on May 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I”m from a small town with just the one school – the same one my mom went to, and all my cousins. Those years, sometimes, seem more real to me than anything that came after. I’m glad you got that message – it’s good to quiet the ghosts of high school past.