No Longer There

The school I went to as a child is closed;
all the classrooms shuttered.
The schoolyard where the boys played keepaway, stickball, handball, or
had endless arguments about who was the greatest
baseball player,
and where the girls skipped rope, played hopscotch or tag, or
told breathless giggling secrets about the boys;
The house where the nuns who taught us lived
is being rented out.
The rectory, where the priests lived
is an office building now.
The church, where I got in trouble as an altar boy for
a joke I whispered during Mass,
is rarely used.
Changing demographics did it in.
Enrollment was down,
costs were up,
The diocese had to cut costs.
The brick building sits on the hill,
smaller than I remembered it.
“There’s where I went to school,” I tell my children
as we drive up the street.
“It looks old,” says one.
“What an ugly building,” says another.
“Can we go home now?” says another.
I consider stopping the car;
maybe there’s an unlocked door.
I could walk in and explore;
take my seat in one of the old wooden desks
and try to remember the joy of being
eight years old again.
Instead, I drive on;
Knowing it may be years before I get back here.
By then the building may be gone,
razed and replaced by houses, or perhaps a shopping mall.
All the memories scattered.
My children don’t care about that;
they have the casual ruthlessness of youth.
The present is all that matters.
This building is an interruption to them.
For me it’s still a quivering, beating living thing
That’s diminishing in my rearview mirror.
“Wait,” I say, turning the car, “Let’s stop here.
Just a few moments.
Just a few moments and we’ll leave.”


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