I’m thinking alot* about OLQP now because my last exercise for ENGL 4350: Short Story Writing was to write about, describe, a place, from place to people, and that’s what I picked. I renamed it as Shiloh Christian, of course. I get the feeling we’d still be in Prayer and announcements now, but no, I think we’d be in class now. I don’t know which class, depending on which year, and I think of eighth and sixth grades, when we were all together in one class. At that time, the biggest single class the school had ever seen, at about 25. Maybe mostly eighth, when it was for the last time. And the more I think about it, the more I want to remember. The details. The day in and day out, the familial ties, the crushes, the friendships, all overlapping in familiar, innocent, insecure instances of the best of the youthful years flying by faster than anything. When we were all inevitably tied together like the ponytails my girl friends and I wore practically every day, and when it was weird to run into any of them, by chance, out in town, but at least we knew each other, but now, an awkward strangers’ silence where we might smile uncomfortably, or comfortably in recognition at first before hurrying on and the moment is lost, if we even recognized each other at all.
And everybody knew everything about each other, and the teachers knew the rest, and every day was like a comfortable routine, and…I wasn’t unhappy, even as I worried about fitting in with the “popular” girls who weren’t really, and everybody sat together at lunch anyway because that’s the way it worked, and oh!—for when that was all I really had to worry about. When my friends would ask me where we had to go next during the school day because I was always the first or so to memorize our class schedule each year, and I was the only one who could or maybe would scale the side of the wood porch outside the trailer rooms where our main classes were, to retrieve something someone had accidentally dropped into the muck below, and that one time I had to hold onto a post to lean out over the mud and Van had to pry my hand off of it because I couldn’t reach the pen but didn’t trust him not to drop me, and I in my khaki uniform skirt that day, and we must have looked a pair, some weird sort of physics experiment, maybe, with our classmates gathered round. None of the teachers liked to see those antics, but I was never written up for it. Nor for technically being “out of uniform” that day at the end of the year when Jenna shook a bottle of purple paint and the top wasn’t all the way on and it splattered everywhere, all over our graduation poster and a library book and my skirt? I begged Mrs. Raiff not to make me change clothes, and she didn’t. It was afternoon, anyway, maybe around 1:00 or 2:00 or 3:00. It wasn’t all day.
The iron black fence wasn’t always there, and neither was the inner gate just beyond that same porch. Not until after the front field was converted to a busy highway. But I suppose nobody had really played in that field for years, anyway. That playset, two stories, narrow, used to be a bright, bright blue with a yellow slide, but I think it was repainted, moved to the back yard. The color wasn’t right, I remember thinking, it was darker… The top of the jungle gym next to it was for “royalty.” The playground, red and grey and dark blue with a bright blue slide “eight feet” tall, was everything when we played “the game” with no rules, no specifications, but we understood it anyway, and the back field, smaller, gated, next to the pavilion, was everything else.
“Because when you’re young and on top of the world, you can love anything.”
And when you’re not as young, as I’m about to be 23 next week, not 14 again, and not as on top of the world but now with the world at your feet… Sometimes now I look back on who I used to be, how I used to feel, as I sat in those classrooms, with those friends, and I remember…and nostalgia colors those memories rose.
*Alot because I always knew it should have been written as a lot and Mrs. Haffelder would mark it wrong on all of my papers, but I would write so fast, and I only did it to save time, and I do it here for memory’s sake.