They say that you can never go back.
It’s nice to remember things, places and people how they were rather than become disillusioned when you see how they are, or what they have become.
I guess people change the most. Is what we remember actually the way things were?
I recall a visit to my junior school several years after I’d left. To the children, I was a bit of a novelty. An Old Girl come to visit. It felt good that all of my teachers remembered me, greeting me with smiles and warmth, even if I was disrupting their class. Here, I had not been in anyone’s shadow. They had not come to this school before me, so no comparisons could be made.
I was invited to join in a music lesson, singing ‘a round’ as we used to do in class all those years ago. The only thing different about my teacher was her name as she’d got married, but other than that she seemed the same, as were the songs we were singing, and the tambourines, triangles and castanets that were being passed around.Walking along the corridors, I found it amazing how tiny the clothes pegs were. Had I really been that small and had to stand on tip toe to hang up my coat? I stuck my head in the girls loos and laughed out loud at how low they were, how narrow the cubicles, still the same shiny toilet paper in boxes dispensing one sheet at a time. No good me using one of those, I’d never get up again, so finally, the secrets of The Staff Room were going to be revealed to me.
I was told by the Headmaster that I was welcome to stay for lunch.
The tables were set out in the assembly hall, exactly as they had been that first lunch time in 1965. Each could sit 8, some with seven young pupils and a teacher. It was a Tuesday, and ice cream was on the menu. Some things never change, except size perhaps.
For some reason, a group of the kids in the music class asked if I would sit at their table that day. It seemed strange, as even in grammar school, I had never been allowed to sit at the head of any table. I was amazed at their confident chatter. I was asked all sorts of questions about what it had been like when I had been at school there. I had played goal shooter for the netball team, and been good at sports but we had to go to the local recreation grounds for our Sports Days. I’d sung solo in the choir, played the piano in the music room in my lunch hour and nobody minded. Apparently, unless it was raining, no-one was allowed to stay inside the building during break time anymore.
In my final year, I had played the part of Mrs Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol which had been our school play. (I’d worn the long blue brocade bridesmaid’s dress from my brother’s wedding 2 years previously, and it had still fitted.)
One of the dinner ladies on duty in the playground was the same as I remembered her. Squat and round, with a red face and a smile like sunshine, she too remembered me, and as we walked together, we spoke of games the children were playing compared to those when I was a child.
Many years later, I visited the area again and looked up to the hill where my school had once stood. It had been demolished some six years before and replaced with houses. Little boxes, with tiny gardens, facing out onto a narrow road that used to be the playground.
I guess ‘They’ were right. I wish I hadn’t gone back.