My mom and I drove down Avenue W in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Mount Royal Collegiate. We parked on Avenue W and walked to the front of the school. My brother and I use to walk the 1.65 miles to school, from our home on Avenue K. When the days were the shortest, we left our home before the sun came up and came home after it set. We could see our breath. It was cold.
My glasses fogged up when I walked into the heated school. I would wipe them clean with paper towel in the bathroom, before I went to my locker to hang up my winter coat.
I had flown in from Pennsylvania a few days before. Home for my mom’s birthday. The cold mornings were a lifetime ago. It is almost forty years since the last time my brother and I walked to school together before the sun came up.
My mom and I waited at the sidewalk until the light turned green at the corner of Rusholme road and Avenue W, in front of the high school I went to for four years. Four years that felt like they would never end. Waiting to grow up. I wonder when they put the traffic light in?
As we walked towards the front door I saw a man walked toward a group of students.
“Excuse me, are you a teacher?”
“Yes, I am.”
I extended my hand for a firm handshake and said, “Hello, I am Pamela Hodges, class of 1976.”
I don’t know why I wanted to go back to my high school.
But I did.
I moved to Calgary in 1978, and haven’t lived in Canada since 1983. Over thirty-four years.
We were only going to drive past the school. A quick look. But we parked and went into the school.
I hadn’t been back to Canada to see my mom in six years. And the last time I walked the halls of Mount Royal Collegiate was for a special tour for our graduating classes twenty-fifth reunion. Wasn’t that enough?
The teacher walked us to the front door and showed us the renovations to the entrance of the school. The brick wall to the gymnasium was now glass. The stage was torn down. The stage I played Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. The stage the school held Variety Night once a year, and high school dances, dancing to Jumping Jack Flash and Stairway to Heaven.
Does the school still let the school president announce events during the last three minutes of third period right before lunch? Does anyone remember Joe Jock from Joe Jock radio?
The teacher introduced us to the assistant vice-principal, Mr. David Sloboda,who showed us where the new library was on the second floor. The old library is a child care center.
We were allowed to walk freely through the school. The art room, the door that led to yearbook room. The hallway where the football players stood against the wall. The long walk of being self-conscious in front of Letter Jackets.
The art teacher came to the door and let us walk through the room. I told her I used to attend school here, and was an artist. I cried as I talked to her. Where did my tears come from? The sight of my old art classroom, and I had trouble speaking?
Where do tears come from? Why did I cry? Why do we cry? I think we don’t allow ourselves to feel. It is easier to pretend it doesn’t matter. I went back to my high school to see where I came from. Where dreams start. The dream I had been neglecting.
The Vice-Principal asked us to stop by the office before we left. He gave me two yearbooks.
Nothing seemed the same, until we were about to leave.
The bathroom by the front office was still there. The old counters had been ripped out. New sinks and counters replaced the while porcelain sinks. Sigh, even the bathroom has been renovated. Nothing is the same.
And then I opened the door to the stall and saw the toilet. Black seats. Are these the same toilet seats I sat on?
They were. The silver handle on the left to flush. There were no electronic sensors to turn on the water if I moved before I stood up.
The black seats were the same ones I sat on from September of 1972 until the end of the school year in 1976. The black seats with the space in the front and no cover to keep pencils from falling out of your pocket when you leaned over to flush. The same toilet seats I sat on when I was bored in Chemistry and went to the bathroom to shorten class time.
On July 2nd, 2016, at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, my graduating class will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of walking on the stage to get our high school diplomas. Perhaps we will ask for another tour of the school.
The stage is gone, but the toilets are still there.
“I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes”
― Vladimir Nabokov
Have you ever gone back to your high school to look for memories? Please tell me in the comments. I would love to chat.