Yesterday I found myself thinking about places in my life. It started innocently with a passing thought about the elementary school I attended. Actually, I attended 3 elementary schools, all in Havertown, PA. But the one I think of as MY elementary school is the one that was called Llanerch. I was there from second through fifth grade, and I cannot for the life of me remember ever going to the bathroom there.
In fact, I can’t recall the bathrooms in ANY of my elementary schools, although I do remember that Fredrica B. wet her pants in reading group in first grade. (I am pretty sure that Fredrica would never be reading this blog, but I’ll apologize to her right now, just in case.)
From elementary school bathrooms I moved on to classrooms in general. What did they look like? Where did I sit? I spent many formative hours in these spaces, and yet I can hardly picture any of them. And I certainly can’t conjure my desk, or who sat near me.
Snippets come back, but they are spotty. Disturbingly so. For example, in 5th grade my friend Beth made a model of Fort Sumter out of little marshmallows. It was very cool and our teacher, Miss Asteris, put it out in the hallway so that other students could see it. I can picture the table it was on, right next to the west stairway.
And in my mind’s eye I see it being slowly dismantled as students ate its marshmallow walls. (Here’s a photo of a Pez version of the Fort. It must be very tiny! I am guessing it, too, would have disappeared rather quickly out in that hallway.)
Speaking of stairways, here’s the east stairway. This is just as it looked, back in the day. I remember the treads and the metal bannister.
Many (or some) of us girls in elementary school wore shorts under their skirts. I know for sure that I did, but I can’t actually remember if others did — which is just another weird thing about memory. Anyway I can feel myself racing down these stairs at the end of the day, and pulling off my skirt so that I had just my shorts on and was ready to play or walk home, or whatever was on the agenda.
I don’t remember where I put my skirt after I pulled it off. We didn’t have backpacks in those days. I did have a leather briefcase/book-bag that was pretty cool, so maybe I put my skirt in that.
These are the kinds of details that adults think about. But back then, I probably didn’t consider or care where I put my skirt. All I knew, running down those steps, was that I was free for the rest of the day.
So, I invite you to pause for a moment today. Maybe even right now. See if you can conjure the bathroom(s) in your elementary school. Or, if not a bathroom, your desk in one of your classrooms. Put yourself back there, even if just for a moment. Capture, for one mundane instant, the great and mysterious span of your lifetime.