I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Slugs Under the Stepping Stones of Memory

The summer before I went into the 6th grade, in Pleasant Hill, CA., the school district had so many new families moving into the area that they decided to build a new elementary school. They tore out an old walnut orchard and transformed the empty acres into a new school.... and it was right down at the end of the street from where I lived. They called it Strandwood. The year was 1956.
This last weekend I walked my grandchildren back down to this school and the memories came flooding back. The above collage has three photos with the word "here" on each one. Each word represents a different memory.
The top photo is the front of the school. It's much prettier than it was that first year. We had no trees, hedges or gardens then. But it was a brand new school and we were the FIRST GRADUATING CLASS. All of the 6th graders were big important students. We were the oldest and the "big deals" for the year. We only stayed for one year and them moved on to Pleasant Hill Junior High School a few miles away.... but for one shinning school year we were the "alpha" kids.
Where you see the word "here" in the top photo is the spot where a couple of friends and I ( the summer before the school opened ) climbed onto the roof and down through a skylight into the school office. We thought we were really cool until we looked around and saw the new Principal standing in the doorway of his office. He was so mad at us. He gave us a long speech about breaking and entering, told us that we would probably have to go to the police department and took our names and phone numbers. I remember trying not to cry in front of my friends.
Now, mind you, I was a "good" girl and this wasn't something that I had ever done before. I was so scared that I could hardly breath. He told us that he wouldn't call the police but that we were to go home and he would be calling each of our parents that afternoon. He must have known how scared we were because he actually never called any of our parents. I sweat bullets for a week waiting for that phone call. It was all the punishment I needed. Never again, no matter who I was trying to impress, did I do anything like that and years later( I mean many YEARS later.. probably like 3 years ago) I told my Mom what had happen. She laughed and said that, knowing me, waiting for the principal to call was probably punishment enough. As I have said before, I have had this "closet Catholic" guilt thing going on inside of me my whole entire life. The day school started I was hoping that I wouldn't run into the Principal in the hallway. I didn't want him to be reminded to call our parents. I still think he got too busy or lost the list with the phone numbers. I still think about it.
The second "here" on the right is a photo of the main hallway and in the distance, the cafeteria. I got to serve lunch there and polished my domestic skills cleaning the tables afterwords. They gave me a free lunch for this effort and sometimes an extra ice cream or cookie.
I was also the third ghost in Dickens, A Christmas Carol. that year. I wore a huge black cape with a hood and showed Scrooge the future, while pointed with my finger. No words. It was an easy part and my first stage appearance. I was hooked for life. I went on to a short illustrious career in high school as an ACTRESS.
The third "here" is the best one. This is where, without flowers, trees or air conditioning units, I received my first kiss from a boy. Yes, it was exciting and wonderful. I'm sure we were in love. I just don't remember his name or what he looked like...., but I remember where it happen. "HERE" marks the spot.
So now, some 54 years later, I'm here with my grandchildren....

watching them play on the "new" playground. Gone is the wood sided, bark filled area with metal equipment that tested your ability to climb the highest, balance the best and swing the longest. Oh! I guess these new and softer playgrounds do the same thing. They are definitely more colorful. The equipment is different but the children are similar, each with his own skills and abilities. Each challenging themselves to be the best. I love the shadows on the green (and padded, like the local gym) fake grass. That could be me below the Bean. The ghost of years past. The outline of a child is always similar, in a way.The memory dims but the childhood continues. My memories will fade. His will develop, in the same place, only differently.
Little Bean is just starting to build his story. Hopefully my photos will remind him of this sunny day, walking with his Noni, to the school playground where she tells them the stories of long ago..., of walnut orchards and mustard grass in the meadow.., of an old oak tree on the hill behind the school and running up that hill so fast that she thought her lungs would burst. Too many memories to count. So many memories...

And then they discovered the slugs under the stepping stones. They met another little boy and it became a "boys will be boys" quest to find the most slugs.
We found a bottle with an orange cap. We, carefully, brought home 15 or 16 slugs and 2 "rolly pollies". The Bean carried his in his shirt. Yep! It was a record day.

My photos did not show up with this post. I was only able to retrieve the first one so I will do a separate post with the two photos that are missing. I'm beginning to think that that blogging/ computer "fates" have an issue with me lately.


  1. This post just plain made me feel good. I know some plants that are feeling good without the slugs too. Your teaching them a lot, your sweet grandsons, about life and love.

  2. A cute post! I liked the story of your wild adventure on the school roof and how scared you were. I would have been the same way!

    I have been uploading my photos to Photobucket. it is very easy. You just copy and paste the links in; you can do 5 photos at the same time.

  3. Thanks for a wonderful, wonderful story. Just wish I could remember my first kiss, such an important event - guess it was quite unremarkable! I loved lisening to my grandmother tell stories and I'm delighted that my grands love hearing mine.

  4. I've got your back on this one Elly Mae..... No one will ever know that you once broke into your school and was apprehended by the principal himself. My children, now grown are coming forward with stories of their youth that leaves me totally flabbergasted. I loved you mosaics.

  5. Sweet post today! A record day for collecting slugs!!! haha!

  6. SO HILARIOUS! Your story about being caught by the principal sounds like a great scene from a movie! Reminds me of the 1st time I skipped class in grade 6 with Denise Baxter and while we were playing bar in the rec room the phone rang. I answered with "Baxter's Bar and Grill". It was Mr Carton, the principal and he knew exactly what we were up to. We were ordered back to school where we got the strap AND our parents were called. Yikes. Thanks for giving me a good chuckle this morning...

  7. I have some great and not so great memories there too! I was cussed out by Mrs. Westfal for playing with the water fountain and promptly peed my pants. I was in band, chorus and 3 school plays, I recorded a record with my 3rd grade class and they hung a copy of it in the office. I too, earned a free lunch for loading the dishwasher and wiping tables. I can still remember all of my teachers names, and treasure the valuable lessons they taught me that did not come from a book. I still remember the smell of the walnut trees that lined the "ditch". I beat out the schools' best tetherball player one time! Thanks for stirring up those memories.


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