Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Forever A Lancer

Nearly everything that is dear to me, in terms of places/buildings, gets removed, replaced, or revamped.  The Cheshire Cat bookstore in Clear Lake, the bowling alley in my grandma's hometown, the public library in my own hometown.  Places that used to remind me of my childhood don't anymore.  My old elementary school is no exception.  When they tore it down, I was devastated.  When it was shuttered, but still there, my brother and I would go inside and walk through old desks and lockers, things that didn't have enough value to be auctioned off.  We must have gone there about ten times (one time scoring a dusty old globe, but shh, that's a secret).  But when they knocked it down, it was still too soon.  I still wasn't ready.  I wanted to go back through each and every room again.

The long hallway where the big blue Lost and Found box sat, where I once fell on my ass in front of several upperclassmen.

The kindergarten classroom, which I don't have much memory of besides the shame of stealing two pennies from a counting game.  I had this friend in elementary school, one of those friends we all have at some point, the one who talks us into doing things that we've always secretly wanted to do but never had the balls to do ourselves.  We stole money, we kept giggling to each other, until we were later guilted by our mothers into bringing the pennies back along with an apology letter.  I also remember making snacks as a surprise for the first-graders, a graham cracker with frosting that made it look like a traffic stoplight.  I walked across the room to give it to my assigned first-grader, and I dropped it, frosting side down, on the grimy gray tiles.  I looked around - no one seemed to have noticed - picked it back up, and gave it to her anyway.

The first grade room, where we had a bathtub in the corner that was filled with pillows and blankets for maximum comfort while reading.  That teacher was one of the best I've ever had, and she'd lead us on wild hunts for gingerbread men and teach us how to make butter.

The second grade room was where I had to confess to my teacher that yes, I had indeed pulled my pants down in front of the soccer field at recess.  She had looked at me, lips tight with what I now think was held-back laughter, and sent me and three of my pants-dropping friends to the principal's office.

In the third grade classroom, I don't remember a whole lot besides a few memorable visits from the school guidance counselor.  She talked to us about personal hygiene, and, on a day I was sad to have missed, she apparently taught us about "tooting," according to another classmate.  One day she handed out Starburst to some of us but not all of us, and she stared at the ones who didn't have a Starburst and shook her head sadly.  "This," she had told us, "is what segregation feels like."  Some kids cried.  The aforementioned penny-stealing best friend had reached over and given me her own pink Starburst, a gesture that nearly made the guidance counselor cry.

My fourth grade classroom would be where I seduced my first boyfriend with notes written in Gelly Roll pens, NSYNC songs, and kisses on the cheek up in "the loft" (a giant wooden - treehouse? - of sorts painted red...it was where all of the fourth grade drama occurred).  It was where my particularly sharp-tongued teacher had told me I sucked at drawing, and also told me that she thought I was "probably ready to read 'Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret.'"  I remember being extremely excited because that, as we all knew, was The Book About Periods.  I also recall a boy in my class saying to one of the girls, "Get in my belly!", a la Fat Bastard (Austin Powers was especially popular during this time), and the girl cried.

In fifth grade, we were especially nasty to a young, well-meaning teacher.  He read us whatever books we wanted, and he always let us sit on the foot-shaped pillows in his room during silent reading.  But regardless, he must have seemed an easy target, because we booby-trapped his chair with chalk dust, passed notes about him, and forced him to read to the entire class a book called 'Wonder', which we knew included lots of embarrassing phrases, like "Green M&Ms make you horny, and the orange ones make your boobs grow."  (The class voted on books he would read, and the girls in our class accomplished this goal by choosing only two books to vote on, 'Wonder' or 'Karen's Kitty Cat Club.'  I am an awful person.)

I spent quite a bit of time in the nurse's office when I was younger, asking for ice packs and searching my body for marks or bruises that I could insist were injuries.  I can't imagine how the nurse put up with it.  Connected were the secretary's office and the principal's office, where we would line up for fruit-shaped hard candies when we did well on spelling tests, and where I once vomited on the desk after fainting at a Christmas concert.

The gym is home to lots of memories.  Roller skating around and around the warped wooden floors with my sister and my dad at night, boombox set up in the corner, and I'd skate furiously over to change the song when "Magic Stick" by 50 Cent came on.  School dances, where my friends and I would sit on a pile of tumbling mats in the corner and talk about boys.  Various PE games that could double as torture (NOT including the parachute, oh God, I loved the parachute), including one my dad - a PE and history teacher - thought up that involved pulling one another's limbs as hard as we could over the half-court line.  Assemblies, magic shows, lip-synching contests, book fairs, volleyball games.  I might miss the gym the most.

The playground outside, where we'd jump off the top of a large wooden climbing thing we called "The Toaster" and every once in a while, pee behind trees, for whatever reason.  Under the outdated, wood-metal-and-tire equipment, we were taught by upperclassmen about "men-es-tration" and how, if a bug crawled into your hair, you could go brain-dead.  Girls-chase-boys was our favorite game, followed closely by talking them into giving us piggy-back rides.

The upstairs middle-school classrooms:  the library where there had once been pictures of Winnie the Pooh painted high on the walls, the language arts classroom where I once got in trouble for laughing loudly at a friend's hiccups, the math classroom where we once made our teacher cry, the English classroom where Read and Feed was our favorite time to socialize instead of read, the computer rooms which were fondly referred to as the Apple Orchard and Blueberry Patch, the eighth-grade language arts room where we wrote our spelling words in shaving cream on our desks and where I remember constantly ingesting bags of Cheddar Chex Mix and cans of Ruby Red Squirt, the science classroom where I remember almost nothing happening aside from dissecting a lamb's eyeball, and of course, my dad's classroom, where he kept old candy from magazine sales in his closet and scared students by smacking rulers on their desk.  In between those were dusty brick walls, enclaves in which a bust or small statue wouldn't look out of place, and of course the boys bathroom (where we often dared each other to hang out) and the girls' bathroom (where we would trade lipglosses in between classes and that always smelled like too much Victoria's Secret Love Spell).

The home ec room was where I was told I "sewed like a drunken sailor" and where I learned (kind of) how to balance a checkbook.  Across the way was the art room, where the door opened with the loudest, most specific noise I've ever heard and where I spent more time staring up at the painted ceiling tiles than doing anything else.  Next to the art room was the boiler room where we'd find our way through the various pipes and machinery in order to get to the eraser cleaning machine.  In the corner was the mysterious "smoker's lounge," in which we heard there was a gold jockstrap hanging on the wall but never confirmed ourselves.

It was rare to spot a teacher in the teachers' lounge; they usually ate at the "teacher's table" down the hall in the lunchroom, where we ate square pizza, turkey gravy over biscuit, and cake made of Jello.  Up the dungeon-like stairs in the corner was the music room (where we had one band teacher after another after another), the ICN room (where we were introduced to the newest and most cutting-edge of technologies LOL), and the shop (where my brother had graffitied "Fletch Lives" on the ceiling and where we had extremely awkward private band lessons).

God, I loved this school.  I apologize for the novel-length trip down memory lane.  :)  Feel free to add memories of your own.



  1. Oh my gosh!!! I was literally laughing out loud when reading this!! Don't forget about the paper towels we had to return, and seeing how many people we could fit in the tunnel slide!! Thinking back about fifth grade-I can't believe we made him read that book-but then again how nice of him to trust us and read it!! Wow, I wonder where he is now days?

  2. This is where my kids grew up and where we spent most of our family time in the gym during the winter months...and everyone of them would still rather go there than out of town and bring their own kids up with this simple free entertainment...and now it is all gone...but not the memories.

  3. Wow you made me re-live my time in that school. Even at grades apart things didn't change to much. Thanks for the memories.