I knew it was coming but it was still a shock.
Yesterday I drove past my old primary school and they have finally demolished the old buildings that have been replaced with new ones.
There is a gaping hole where I spent Grades 4, 5 and 6.
Living in the same neighbourhood we both grew up in, we have taken for granted our schools places in our visual landscape. In fact, our three children also attended the primary school my husband, his siblings and cousins and the other half of my Girl Guide friends went to. The high school we should have attended by default (instead we both went to a new tech school, where we met) and that our own kids did go to, is nestled alongside my primary school. Technically, my mother-in-law went to that same high school, but on an earlier campus which later become the TAFE college my son went to and in-between was a senior tech that I attended briefly! So there has always been a great intimacy with our schools throughout all our lives.
But now, only the grounds look familiar. The grassed areas where we played - during various childhood obsessions - pretend horses at make-believe gymkhanas; amatuer sleuths with secret club-houses; wanna-be pop stars lip-syncing to cassette tapes and other long-forgotten activities. And, during less-happy, friendship breakdowns, reading alone with endless library books. Oh, and obligitory monkey bars and failed attempts at hand-stands and cartwheels.
In fact, it was the long-jump pit in that same area that led to my continuing back problems: its all in the landing and mine wasn't good. Despite my declarations of great pain, no xrays were taken by the doctor (amazingly, he is still working in the same practice, although I see a different doctor there now!). It was about four years ago that my new chiropractor, casually looking at the xrays he ordered, asked when I broke my back! I have a Spondylolisthesis, most likely caused by just such an accident as I had in Grade 6 long jump!
But the building where I first read the Narnia books, where I wrote stories remarkably similar to those of Enid Blyton, where I borrowed Jaws from my deskmate and stepped into the world of adult fiction - is gone. I guess the old library, the canteen where our lunch order pies appeared from - which had a safety poster on the wall I have never forgotten - "The thong has ended but the malady lingers on" - on the risks of our favourite summer footwear. (Was I the only primary school student who got the pun? I bet I am the only one who remembers it!)
The new building looks very smart. It is obviously asbestos-free, while I bet the old one was riddled with it. There are probably no breeze-ways outside the toilets. The art room is unlikely to still be a place where macramé and copper enamelling are among the skills taught (this was the first half of the 70s I was there!). But I can still smell the paper we soaked in the troughs before drawing on it with pastels. I still remember absent-mindedly upending the glue pot, forgetting it had a brush and open top, unlike the squeeze bottle of PVA I was used to at home - resulting in a huge mess and humiliation.
It is almost forty years since I was a student at that school. I only arrived there part-way through Grade 3, yet my strongest memories are of that place and that time. Our Grade 5 camp booklet declared us Överportians" and I have always thought of us that way. Two of my oldest friends were alongside me there and we are still together today. Many other friends share that bond that makes us smile when we meet up in the community, middle-aged women who remember hanging upside down on those monkey bars.
They can demolish the buildings but my memories, like the malady, linger on!