Reflective Writing

My childhood has disappeared

Not literally, of course. But I had a realization.

As of the last year or so, every school I went to, from ages 5 to 18, has been torn down and rebuilt since I went there. I don’t know the degree to which this is the case for most late-20s, early-30s types, but it is now true for me.

There’s something to be said about place, and how that affects memories. Middle school was seared into me for multiple reasons, some positive, some not. But all of those memories are strongly imprinted with the location. I remember multiple school dances in the cafeteria, usually a site for less-than-happy experiences, but maybe that’s why I remember them. That cafeteria no longer exists.

I have memories in elementary school, the third grade, I believe, where for some projects some of us went out into the darkened hallway (windowless, of course) to spread out our projects when there wasn’t any room at the desks. I remember the computer room, and the library where I checked out the book on fighter jets dozens of times instead of actually reading any of the books in the library. All of those places no longer exist.

I remember high school, of course, the most recent of these. I remember hanging out in the corridors next to the auditorium with all of the other misfits I hung out with, though I don’t remember what we actually did there. I remember the gym, filled with people for track practice and draped with banners. I remember the choir room off the back in what was once the industrial arts building, always too cold because it was once a computer room and had an oversized AC unit for that purpose. None of that is there anymore.

And to add an odd postscript, a large parking lot at Carnegie Mellon is now being replaced by a new building. It’s almost not worth noting, other than the fact that it was the site of spring carnival for every year I went, including those when I went back after my studies were over. In some ways, thinking about a missing site in memory is perfectly exemplified by CMU’s spring carnival: organizations building ornate, often quite incredible carnival booths, which you could see that one weekend and then were torn back down again. Everything in life is on a similarly limited timeline, and pictures and memories are usually all we take from them.

The difference between Carnival and the rest of life is that we know. In youth, at least, one is not prepared for the idea that places and things you assumed to be constant would simply not be there anymore after some time. I’m acclimating to these changes, though, like many others. It’s a helpful reminder that time won’t stop for you, and the things that already happened in these locations of your past are at this point immutable.

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