I went to the same school from kindergarten through 8th grade -- nine years of my life spent attending the same small rural school. Graduating 8th grade in a class of 26 students, at least 13 of us had gone to school together for all nine years. Many of the rest had moved in around 3rd or 4th grade. Essentially, inside this small feeder school on the edge of town, we had all grown up together.
When the time for graduation came I remember it being somewhat difficult to accept since, for the first time in my fourteen years, I was facing a major life change. I had been with these same classmates for nine years and starting high school in the fall, things were going to be much different. I had never moved to a new school. I had never had anything in my family life happen to shake up my world. Now I was coming to terms with the fact that for the first time ever, I was being forced out of my regular comfort zone.
As our eighth grade year came to a close, there were graduation parties, there were awards banquets, and of course there was the graduation ceremony itself. Have you ever had a lump in your throat and felt so sad that something was happening but knew you could do nothing about it? I remember a lump like that being in my throat throughout my entire graduation ceremony. That lump wasn't there because I wasn't going to be in the same classes as my friends anymore. It wasn't there because I was nervous about starting high school. It wasn't there because my classmate was singing That's What Friends Are For. What had me by the gut was the realization that times were changing.
For nine years, when I woke up in the morning, I knew what to expect. I'd walk to school and spend the day with the same people I spent the day with everyday. There were no unknowns. My school was in my neighborhood -- a part of my world.
Things were simple.
But that was over now.
I wasn't a kid anymore and I knew it. Small classes were out and bigger classes were in. The hallways in high school would be longer and busier. Many of my friends would invest themselves in football and parties while my focuses were elsewhere. We'd make friends who had cars which opened up a whole new world of potential -- both good and bad. The bottom line was simple. Things were going to be much different.
And I wasn't sure how to feel about that.
While I was in school, K-4 was in one building and grades 5-8 were in a separate building up the road. In recent years, this school district where I attended has combined all grades into one larger and nicely-remodeled building. The original K-4 structure has stood empty ever since.
This past weekend, I had the chance to go back inside the building where we all went for the first five of those nine years we shared. As I walked the halls and stepped into the classrooms, I was faced with the harsh reality that times do indeed change. And they change quickly.
I walked down this building's lone hallway and I remembered recess, class plays, and lunch time. I remembered Cub Scout meetings, basketball tournaments, and my teachers.
Among the moldy ruins of this building, I remembered.
There was the spot where I stood when my teacher made me cry after she called me out for stealing paper from her desk.
There was the spot where I put my Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox every day when I got to school.
There was the bathroom where I slammed my finger in the door so hard that the nail turned purple and fell off.
There was the classroom where, during a film, I held hands with a girl for the first time.
Everything was dirty and in shambles, but I remembered.
And I smiled.
Walking through this school may have been horrible for my lungs, but it was good for my heart.
Obviously I survived high school and while many of us from that small grade school went our separate directions and found ourselves in very different groups of friends, when we'd see each other in those large high school hallways, we'd still smile and say hello. We knew where we'd come from and to this day, I think each of us still has a special place in our hearts for those grade school years at the small feeder school on the edge of town.