They are closing my high school.
It’s funny. I live 10 miles from yet another town called Cassville, and yet another school called Cass, in a completely different state. Somethings just come full circle. I left home just to come back, I guess you could say.
I’m sure somehow it’s for a good purpose that they close my schools doors, and that lots of people will benefit. However, for myself the jarring fact remains that they are, indeed, closing my high school.
I can’t say my years were particularly pleasant there, but nor do I hold them any ill will. Such is the nature of youth in the education system, is my belief. But I experienced, as all youth does, trials and tribulations they committed to my make up today. I lived, loved, met, shook hands, and did things that caused me to make decisions later in life through those doors. I was never the “pimp daddy” or the most popular kid, but I wasn’t shunned either, and I got along with most folks I met. I also did some incredibly boneheaded things. Even now I shake my head in bewilderment and wonder “What the hell was I thinking?”
I also wasn’t the best socialite at the dance.
Perhaps I should really start at the beginning aye?
I was asked via Facebook, to attend a Alumni night at my High School. The invitiation for me, was as a Marching Band Alumni. I was asked to join the current group of students and play through the night with them at our Homecoming football game this weekend.
I have never made it home for this type of events before, for some reason, I agreed. It takes place tomorrow night. I’ll be driving to Georgia tomorrow morning.
I have not touched a trumpet since my senior year of High School, almost 15 years ago. I had played from the time I was in 4th grade until I graduated. I used to be a soloist. I used to play in DCI. In other words, I used to be pretty good. I was no Louis Armstrong, but I felt I played well.
On Monday we had rehearsal. I stared blankly at the page of music in front of me, and my fingers did not register the notes that my brain tried to comprehend. I was, in a word, pathetic.
During the rehearsal however, it was mentioned this was the last year for my school. I sat up dumbfounded and inquired of the Director just what did he mean?
The gong struck. The drum-roll began.
They had built a new school down the road in a city called White. When I was still here White was a place that could barely be called a town. It hosted a textile mill that I worked security in at night for a time, a gas station, a restaurant that catered to the mill, and a Elementary school. Congratulations, that was the big town of White. Now it was going to host a county High School?
You have to understand, I have not been back to White. So the proportions for me seemed out of whack. My Freshman class, almost 20 years ago, was 1,215 people. My graduating class was over 600. In my addled brain, the freshman class at this new school would be the entire population of the city of White plus a few hundred.
Further my old school, technically isn’t old. It first graduated students in the 1970’s, so relatively speaking the building isn’t that old. Compare it to my Elementary school, which opened it’s doors in 1919 before finally shutting them down after I graduated high school. As a government building goes, it’s far from archaic.
All of these combine to me, to make up thoughts I was not prepared for.
As we left the band room and made our way to the Auditorium, we took the same route I had taken repeatedly years before. We stood on the stage and practiced again.
I had acted on this stage, played music, and sang. The colors were different, and it did not seem as large or as looming as it does in my memories of those days.
In our Junior year Calimus and I had rewired all of the stage lights for my mentor, Mr Armstrong. I was surprised to see many of those lights we had rebuilt were still in use, and functional. I guess we did good work. They won’t see any more history pass under their beams though.
It was here I earned a nickname I at first hated. Later I came to accept it. Now it more or less fits thanks to my rolling stone lifestyle. Freebird. I earned it for playing the redneck anthem during a White Christmas program.
I saw only 1 other person whom I recognized that night. A former color guard member. The others lost to me in a sea of years, and memories.
But still, they are closing my school.
No more shall Calimus and I slip out the back door to our cars and make a break for the local Chinese restaurant. No more shall I play guitar with Mr. Armstrong playing fiddle, save to empty hallways.
Earl Cunningham Stadium, our school football field, will resound with our fight song one last time this year, the lights will go out, and all will be silent.
But at night when no one is around; the ghosts of those gone before us may still walk the halls. Jill, Stephen, and those others we lost while we lived on and moved on will look out dusty windows and wonder when the next group of youth shall pass through the doors, so they can tell them “We lived here, we went here, you can be somebody, you can succeed, look at our friends! Our Classmates!”
But they won’t come.
The teachers who have gone on as well, will hold class in empty rooms, in the dark and try to temper the minds of fiery youth who will not be there.
This Friday night I will be, however. And for the last time in my life I’ll take the field, and with classmates, and other alumni we’ll play our hearts out and try to roll the years back to those in the stands to the best of our ability.
And for just a little while, the school will resonate, as it should, and all will be right.
They are closing my school. Given my track record of not “being there” for events and people that haunts me greatly, I am glad I will not miss this.