On a summer day in the early 00's, I was in Winona visiting friends and family. In the early afternoon, I headed over to Shanon's place. He wasn't home at the time, so I tried to think of something interesting to do to pass the time. Hmm. Rollingstone. I could go to the small town that I lived in as a child.
I hadn't been there in about 10 years. I drove the 8 miles to the town, went past the house we lived in from '78-'84, passed our neighbor's house, and then went onto Rollingstone's main street. I passed the city cemetery and saw the elementary school that I had attended for 5 years. One of the doors was ajar (Rollingstone had since built a more up-to-date school on the other side of town). I hadn't been in there since I was 13 years old. Now, in my early 30's, I wondered if the interior of the school would be as I remembered it.
I parked my car and headed for the open door. There didn't appear to be anyone inside. I walked into the old gym where I used to play M*A*S*H (dodgeball) and eat lunch from my "Empire Strikes Back" lunchbox. It was the damnest thing. The whole building seemed smaller to me. The school had shrunk over the past two decades. Yeah, right. Of course this was because when I attended the school, I was a bit shorter. Now having grown to my full height, everything seemed smaller when, in fact, it was me that had gotten bigger (in more ways than one, well, not really). At the end of the gym was a stage, a stage in which I had once sang with my classmates in a play that we did for our parents. I can still remember singing with my colleagues and looking out at my parents in the audience. The song was about people changing and life changing.
I then went into the cafeteria where the lunchlady had put together our hot lunch meals (my favorite was the rectangular pizza, though tots were pretty good, too, since my mom didn't make them at home). I went into the hallway and then to the little boy's room. Small, small, small. I passed where the kinderbeeners class used to be with Mrs. Beyer as well as the room that housed the music class. I recall how excited the whole class would get when keyboards were brought in for a week for us kids to play with.
I headed upstairs to the other classrooms. I remember on my first day of school there in the 2nd grade, my mom came with me and my sister and told one of the teachers that we were not allowed to celebrate holidays or salute the flag due to religious reasons (I had become accustomed to this in Kindergarten and first grade. One of my favorite memories of kindergarden was having milk brought to our classroom and after drinking that, getting to take a nap. I love naps. They should've continued the naps at least through the rest of grade school, so relaxing...)
I went through the rooms that housed the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. The rooms had a few chairs in them, but it didn't appear that they had been used in years. I remember in 4th grade, everybody was going apeshit over who shot J.R. on "Dallas".
One of the girls in my class, Heather Spencer, said that the episode in which the shooter was to be revealed had already aired in Wisconsin and that it would turn out to be Miss Ellie (the old matriarch of the family). I shared this with my parents and grandma Ruth one evening. My grandma didn't think that would be the case. My dad said he was siding with me. I can still remember watching that ep on November 21, 1980 and finding out that "it was you, Kristen, who shot J.R.". I asked Heather the next day what happened. She said that her sources were apparently wrong.
I went into the secretary and prinicipal's offices. It was mostly empty. But I was able to piece together where Mrs. Rivers' desk once was as well as the intercom that was used to make announcements to the school. I then headed up to the 3rd floor. We had art class in one of the rooms. Another was used for special ed students.
The room that I was most looking forward to viewing was the 6th grade one. My teacher that year was Mr. Burdick (the first time I'd had a male teacher). It was a happy time for me. I was 12 and growing more independent. I was shy, but had friends and was generally a pretty happy kid. One of my favorite books to read in the class when I didn't have homework to do was, "The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark".
It was also that school year ('82-'83) that I was getting close to the release of the 3rd Star Wars movie, "Return of the Jedi". I was a huge Star Wars fan. May 25th, 1983 couldn't come fast enough for me (one of the first posts I made on Blogger in July goes over my experiences on that day in great detail). I remember a conversation some of my classmates had one afternoon that spring. They were talking about what they would do if a nuclear calamity happened in the U.S. (you have to remember that at that time, the Soviets were our main rival and the possibility of a nuclear war loomed much larger than it does now). One said he would move to Canada. Another said he would stay and fight. Unfortunately, the door to the former 6th grade classroom was locked. Apparently, it was being used for art classes. Oh well.
I headed back down the steps and left the building, a building where I had spent so many hours of my formative years. I took one last look, wistfully recalling those days that seem like a lifetime ago. I got into my car and headed back to my life in Rochester, a life that I quite enjoy, but please excuse me if sometimes I wish I could go back to where it all began, when everything was new, and happiness was going to follow me for the rest of my days.