My old high school sits there...it has a new purpose but the wide locker-lined halls are still visible through the glass doors at each end. You don't even have to get out of your car to see them, you can just pull through the bus drive. There is the cafeteria, where memories of thousands of lunches still linger...friends and laughter, drama, fights that no one could possibly remember much less remember what started them, a food fight or two, some of the best one-liners I've ever pulled off and even some frantic homework copying with minutes to spare. The auditorium where I can still smell the wood polish used on the floor, the musty aroma of the wardrobe room lined with thrift-store finds, Halloween left-overs and home-stitched frocks and the echo of our voices delivering lines. The office where Senior year found me working in attendance...mostly with integrity but occasionally the thrill of doing a favor for a friend. The English wing where some of the most nurturing souls I've ever met called home for hours while they fed imaginations and dreams. Student Council meetings were held there, and I sold donuts outside the doors of that wing almost every morning my last year there. There is the baseball field where we sat to watch the lanky boys do what they loved...and I remember thinking one friend's crush was sure to be famous for it some day...if only because with a name like his, how could he not? Ty Ganske. I wonder if I was right. The football field where the Friday Night Lights lit up and everyone took it as seriously as Sunday morning meeting. The drums. The players. The butt slaps and high-fives. The cheerleaders and dancers and twirlers. The band marching on the field and the color guard with their gossamer flags.
When I drive through that bus drive, those memories that have long been buried come rushing to the surface and make my heart ache a little bit. I remember the last week with all of the excitement of finally escaping the halls and walls and the work. The parties that were planned so elaborately and the time we knew we'd be spending on the beach or at each others' homes as we wrapped up our high school years together. I remember vividly one moment, sitting in the stands of the football field, practicing for graduation...we were hung-over, drinking Alka-Seltzer with our darkest sunglasses on...and time stopped for a second. It hit me that this was the end of something that I had no preparation to be without. We had grown up together, all of us...and we were parting. Soon. We would carry with us our memories and our intentions to stay in touch...some we would mean but some we would be incapable of following through on. This was the last time we would be together LIKE THIS. I was sitting in a crowd of people knowing that for many of us, this realization would hit and hit hard but I had never felt so alone or bereft as I did at that moment. Time started back up and minutes later we were laughing and planning the next night's adventure. That feeling faded and dissipated. I still had that day.
It's been over twenty years since that day. I drove through the bus drive recently and the feeling came rushing back. It's a breath-catching feeling like a punch in the gut...and I relived feeling alone and bereft all over again. I actually cried. I thought about what I would tell that younger version of me when time stopped that day...where I would tell her to place importance...who to cut loose and who to hang on to very tightly. Who would slip away and stay gone and who would drift away only to return when the rhythms of life revealed themselves to be the right timing. Whose time on earth would end too soon and who she would wish had taken their place.
The tears dried and like time resuming those twenty some years prior, it happened again...the feeling faded and dissipated. Those hurts were necessary. Those relationships that ended did so in tune to a rhythm that can't be predicted. Mistakes needed to be made and growth on our own timelines was absolutely necessary.
The sights and smells and memories and feelings from the past as I drove through that bus drive became a drum beat in my heart of a rhythm that is totally out of my control or prediction and the reminder came rushing back...just enjoy...today is what you have. Today. This day.