It’s the end of the school year, so what better time for a demolition… of the SCHOOL!!! How many kids can say that, really? Well, Norah can. At least this year.
This is her 3rd year at Bleydenberg. She did all her preschool grades here, and will be going on to first grade next year. Only, it will be a little different this time. All the kids will be relocated to various locations across town to make room for the Grand Demolition followed by the Grand Transformation of this historic institution.
Although I’ve been sending my child there for 3 years now, I didn’t’ find out about its historic significance until much later. Much, MUCH later. On the day of the farewell celebration, to be precise. That’s when I found out just how little I had known about the place, and all the ghosts of the past that called the school home. But it was too late. So my memories of the school will become nothing more than a case of ‘Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais'(‘I’ve come to tell you that I’m leaving’).
The school’s ghosts had been relegated to the top tier of the building, where they continued living in a distant past behind firmly locked doors, oblivious to the snot-nosed schoolchildren painting, gluing, and clawing at each other just below. Little did the ghosts know that their blissful merriment will soon come to an abrupt end. On the day of the good-bye bash all locks came down, and the phantoms were exposed to a steady irritating flow of curious visitors.
The squeaky wooden stairs were the thread that joined one secret compartment with the next. Anne Frank and the gang would have been perfectly happy in this labyrinth, and maybe, would’ve even made it this time. I was told that 10 years ago, during a late night Halloween party where guests were allowed to explore the upstairs with flashlights, many actually lost their way. The place was declared unsafe, and no more parties had been held ever since.
There were, however, occasional renters. Although, seeing the state of those ‘quarters’, the only people that could’ve possibly been satisfied with such conditions and maybe even reveled in the dust and rust, had to be monks and artists.
Still, the school staff had done their best to spruce the place up for the party, being resourceful with the scattered antiques and banged up furniture. As we floated from room to room under the watchful eye of the anguished ghosts, we examined the items that had been numbered to be auctioned off or sold to anyone with a packrat compulsion. There were also historical facts posted on walls and doors with ancient class photographs and insider tidbits from a nun.
In fact I should’ve anticipated all of this. After all, I had been to the local church before, where I got a proper rainy day gothic experience, burning buggy rubber among the graves of the church yard. There were graves that dated all the way back to the 18 hundreds! I know because Norah had me read out almost every single inscription, while Anton patiently tolerated the cold drizzle and the lackluster scenery all weather proofed in his buggy…
The party lasted all day. First there was breakfast and then the children’s performance. Norah danced with her class and I filmed the whole thing from the back, like a boss. After the dance, it was my turn(unfortunately, papa had to go home to babysit Anton). While Norah played with her friends, I got properly and, of course, responsibly inebriated with another set of parents who kept asking if I needed a warm up on my beer. At first I was coy, then not.
On the way back home I sat Norah in the back seat of the bicycle and walked it home. Norah asked why I wasn’t riding. So I told her I was a little tipsy. As the sun set, I walked a little too cautiously, held the handles a little too tight, and tried to make sense of Norah’s line of questioning.
‘Mama, you are drunk,’ she affirmed.
‘Are you cross-eyed?’
‘Are you seeing double?’
‘How are you drunk then?’
‘I’m just a little slow.’
‘Mama, when will you ride…’
The plans for the new school where somewhat pedestrian, if you ask me. But I know the teachers appreciate it, and the children will benefit from proper heating and floors that feel safe enough to walk on. Besides, the heart of the school, the chapel, will be kept intact and will be incorporated into the new building. Although I’m not Catholic, I do appreciate the symbolism. I know the ghosts will be a little crammed now, but content to have at least a little piece of home to dwell in, and, of course, more than happy to watch over the future generations of snotnoses.
For the Record Books
Here’s a gallery with some more of the memories, none of which feature me looking buzzed. Sorry.