Yesterday we visited one of my eldest daughter’s old schools. It was a school that she had attended the longest: five years. After leaving this school, she had changed schools every year or alternated between homeschooling and schooling. It wasn’t a visit that was planned for sentimental reasons. I needed a copy of a document. But then we found out that the school was going to be demolished in order to build a new one so my eldest wanted to go see it again.
I forget that the area we used to live in represents half of her life and the area we live in now represents over half of mine. In fact I wanted to move my family to the area we live in presently because this place spurs emotions of comfort and familiar which I needed when my grandmother passed away. But our old neighbourhood, the one we visited yesterday, represents a huge chunk of my eldest daughter’s childhood and my early years as a new parent of one, two, and then three.
It was hard to leave this school. Even after we had moved, I made a 45 minute drive back and forth with four children in the van for an entire school year.
The last day at the school for #1 and #2 in 2007:
Geography lessons of the heart and place. The emotional map of my heart can overlay the geographical map of this city. There are certain areas that correlate with the beat of my heart. And yesterday, we visited one of those places. We visited a time and an emotion. Although we have passed through this area of the city many times since we moved, we haven’t returned to the school to visit. We started another chapter in a new place with a new community. I had forgotten what this other community and this school had meant to our family. My heart reminded me yesterday. It reminded me how significant it was to leading us down this path and helping shape the person my daughter has become and is becoming.
The other two children who had been born and lived in that area were really too young to recall anything and the youngest two weren’t born yet. But even if they have no direct memory or emotion associated with this place, it is a part of them too. This place holds a space in my heart that I didn’t know existed until I knew it was being torn down, until I went back and realized the teachers were all the same and they remembered my family, until my daughter expressed her gratitude for her years in this place.
Geographical locations are placeholders of memory and emotion. Sometimes you aren’t aware of the impact until you return. Memories fade and become distant and faraway when you are physically removed from surroundings that hold them. Time blurs and blunts the edges. The gap between what really happened and what you remember widens.
But then you return the place. Unexpected emotions surface. The total recall of walking to school with three young children during snowstorms and conversations in the school hallways happen instantly. Every breath invites another nostalgic moment. Memories flood with each sensory reminder. Your children shrink back down. You close your eyes and time reverses for a split second. Longing and gratitude mix effortlessly like the blending of sea and sky on the horizon.
This will be the last time we see the school before it’s gone. The neighbourhood itself has already morphed into something almost unrecognizable with only a few smattering of houses that haven’t been torn down to give way to monster homes and condos. One day there may not even be anything or anyone to bridge the chasm of what I remember but now I know, looking at my eldest and how much our family has grown since then, that it will be mapped out in my heart forever.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.