Retrospect: the elementary school

Self-tutoring about people, places, and events from the past: the tutor reflects about a place his sister and he used to frequent.

When we lived in the Annapolis Valley, my grandparents lived about 7 miles away, in a slightly bigger town. It was fun to go visit them sometimes. My parents always agreed to take us there, and our grandparents always allowed us to visit.

Yet, when my sister and I got there, we didn’t really visit with our grandparents. Our grandfather avoided people, including us: he remained in his study except at mealtimes. My grandmother liked talking to us, but we’d almost nothing in common with her. This was when I was 10-13, and my sister was 8-11.

So really, when my sister and I went to our grandparents’, we ended up visiting each other. At home, we had our own lives. We often talked when we both happened to be at home, but seldom did activities together. At our grandparents’, however, we did everything together.

Our grandparents’ yard had a back gate that opened onto an elementary school field. Land was cheap in the Valley: the school’s field was vast, with thick grass.

My sister and I, when we weren’t sure what to do, often would leave through the back gate, then cross the school field to its playground.

The playground had a high slide, some nice high swings, and a couple of monkey-bar climbing features. It was old, even then. It was all made of steel, as was common in those days.

After sliding down the slide a few times, then climbing on the bars awhile, we always took swings next to each other (there were four, in two sets). We would get swinging about halfway up, then talk about whatever. Perhaps 75 feet ahead of us stood the school itself, a one-storey building with four rooms along the side facing us, plus its windowless gym. A paved walkway ran between it and the swings, parallel to the school, but for pedestrians only; it was gated against vehicular traffic. The parking lot and main entrance were on the other side.

Since it was an elementary school, the windows were decorated with crafts the children made. At Christmas there were trees or bells, then hearts around Valentine’s.

My sister and I went there around once per month. One day we were there, one of the rooms had dog-shaped cutouts on its windows. They others, I forget what they had.

Every time after that, the dog-shaped cutouts remained. Christmas came, then Valentine’s; still they were there. I realized somehow that was odd, but didn’t consciously think about it until awhile later.

One day I asked my grandmother about the school.

“They closed it last year,” she explained. “It’s been vacant ever since.”

Apparently, for some reason, they never took the crafts down from the windows. I still wonder about that: Does that mean they knew it wouldn’t be reopening, so didn’t take the crafts down from the windows because they knew those rooms wouldn’t be used again? On the other hand, had they meant to take them down, but then funding was cut, so the building wasn’t reopened?

For a year and more, we visited and swung on those swings, seeing those dog cutouts in the windows. After I knew the school was deserted, I felt differently about visiting it. However, we never saw anyone else there, even while it was still in use. Eventually, we moved away. I wonder if the building still stands?

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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