|plaid skirts and crabgrass
||[Jan. 27th, 2008|11:10 pm]
|||||beethoven piano sonata #23 alfred brendel||]|
today was an eventful day for my former principal of my k-12 school, st. joachim's, in madera, california. sister encarnacion, sort of the head of our little batch of spanish sisters, was part of the blessing ceremony for the new school buildings, the funding for which has been a long time coming, since she started at the school in 1980.
i also saw sister angeles, a stout, teapot of a spanish nun, well-endowed and plump. not known for her weak or timid nature, 'sister a' used to play double dutch with the girls and made touchdowns with the boys. i had her for 2nd grade and my sister had her for kindergarten and 2nd grade-damn lucky too.
after the bishop celebrated mass, everyone hustled out of the church and onto the sidewalk, huddling under coats and umbrellas in vain attempts to shun the rain and the wind. the priest's green and ivory vestments all fluttered up in holy ruffles while they waited to be ushered across the asphalt by the traffic warden. in the new hall/gym the bishop blessed the present congregation and various parishoners and contributors to the new buildings made various speeches congratulating everyone else who contributed, and most of all to the sisters and the oblates of st. joseph who are our resident priests.
the nuns congregated like a flock of little ducks in their blue and white habits, SAS nun shoes, and tan stockings. they stood there smiling, chattering in soft spanish accents with pale faces and dark hair, students young and old coming up to them and thanking them for all their years of dutiful and loving service. there is something incredibly special about the knowledge gained over such a stretch of time with the same students, teachers, and families. at church sometimes on sundays i can still spot a few former classmates in the pews in front of me, based simply on how they scratch their head, stretch their arms, or brush their hair. those things never, ever change. i also ran into our former cafeteria mistress/choir director, mrs. a. mrs. a. remembers every damn student that came and went from that school for over 15 years and then some. she remembers me, and my sister claire, and our parents and what we all do and have done. parents of children i went to school with said hello, and the new st. joachim's parental mob know me now as 'the bookstore girl.' the st. joachim parents seem to be regular customers at the shop, buying lots of Narnia and Captain Underpants books for their kids.
on our way to view the new classrooms i had to walk around several cars on the asphalt, part of the new parking lot which has paved over the former 'lower wing' playground. the latter housed two jungle gyms, and two separate swing sets, one older and one 'newer.' the boys in the grade above me used to swing on them so high and hold so tightly to the chain metal that their knuckles would bleed. they'd jump off the swings when they were at a 90 degree angle to the ground. my best friend's older brother broke his wrist that way. my friends christina, antonia, jennifer and i would dangle from our knees on the monkey bars, let our plaid jumper skirts flap over our heads and talk about cities we'd visit when we were 'all grown up' (and crushes on boys of course). unfortunately the grass upon which all these memories took place is no longer, but i suppose the new students will appreciate the gym and more advanced facilities.
i saw a pile of a few hundred desks near the fence by the railroad tracks, between the old shed and what used to be the start of the old playground. although i graffiti'd many in my time all my markings were anonymous, but i still felt the need to open one up and smell the inside. i inhaled the familiar scent of the brown painted metal and cheap particle wood used for the lid, which id pick at with pens and pencils before lifting them up, and letting them swing back at well over a 90 degree angle, hitting the head of the boy sitting in front of me, usually chad jorgensen or dave corona or doug marmolejo.
the new classrooms were all very nice and clean and wonderful, i suppose. they uprooted the red concrete pathways along the classrooms though, with all the cracks we would skip on our way to the principal's office. on our way back to the car mother and i walked along the concrete pathway which was put down for the 'new' cafeteria back when my sister was still in grade school there (she is 4 years my elder). a vague memory of wet cement came over me, and of some mild defiance. i remembered being forced to put my hand in wet cement and placing it into the pavement with my initials. we were walking over hundreds of hand imprints 'class of...' scrawled with a stick above them.
i found 'class of '95' and found 'LG,' and placed my name over the imprint. my hand is almost exactly twice the size it was then, what year it was done i do not recall. i named off the names of most of the initials of my fellow classmates, surprised at how ingrained full names can remain in the memory when they are rooted at an age so young. i smelled mrs. bishop's brownies and the 'sloppy joe' of days goneby as we walked out to the parking lot, where a memory of mom showing up in grandma's kermit green 'woody' bobcat stationwagon (the 'sister' to the pinto) made me cringe, and laugh, sensing the bouyancy of the chain link fence against my back and hearing it squeak.