I had the opportunity to go to a high school reunion a few weeks back. It wasn't my reunion but the committee that was hosting this particular soiree had made the executive decision to open it up to the bordering class years and so I contacted a few friends and we made a weekend of it. I live just over an hour away from my hometown but I don't get to visit very often. When I do I really enjoy taking a tour of what I still consider home.
I always drive slowly through my old neighborhood all the while hearing the voices of childhood friends laughing in the streets. In my mind's eye we are playing kickball or football in the yard, building forts in nearby woods or just wasting the days away. I look at the homes and how they've changed or, in some cases, remained the same. Most are occupied by different families now, families filled with children who are making their own memories.
My tour continues and moves into town where I stop to take photos of the "tree and nut streets." I attended what was Elm Street Junior High School back in the day. While the sign that is perched up high on this grand building has changed, it's Elm Street Middle School now, the regal presence it has in this old neighborhood has not. I've always loved the look of it and I still do. It looms prestigiously. It was here that I attended my first school dance, got my first job at a local restaurant and where I first noticed a boy who shall remain nameless....
Still my tour continues and I am pleasantly surprised to find that some of the eateries I still crave today remain open with menus unchanged. Places like Poor Pierre's, Chicken N Chips, Roland's and Hayward's Ice Cream are all still here. A smile spreads across my face as I seem to recall a friend from very long ago owing me an ice cream cone. I stop in and repay the debt myself. While chocolate, vanilla and strawberry still grace the menu, they have new and different flavors now, more modern you might say. The ice cream is just as creamy and delicious as it once was but it's scooped by different people now.... I don't recognize one single face. I choose chocolate peanut butter cup and again I am pleasantly surprised that the portion sizes are still way too big. I eat my fill and continue on my journey.....
I travel along Main Street and find that it has been beautifully revitalized. There are new businesses and old but all have an updated in-town appeal. I make a mental note of the restaurants that I might try some day when I return.
Greeley Park is my intended destination and as I pull off the road I find comfort in the cool, green grass. I get out and wander aimlessly. A soft breeze blows and I hear it caress each and every leaf. Tranquility still lives here. I continue across the wide expanse of grass toward the park road that leads up through the woods. I look and I think and my mind drifts back to memories that were made here. I'd share them but what happens in the park stays in the park, I'm sure you understand.......
My tour is coming to an end but not before one last stop. I have to go back to my high school, it's the very reason I came to visit this time. I pass the police station and find that nothing has changed, nor has the access road, Riverside is it? I park along the roadside to snap a few distant pictures and I notice that very little of the school looks familiar. They seem to have built around the original structure in such a way that it's facade is almost unrecognizable. Panther prints are still in the crosswalk. I walk toward the school and circle it's perimeter. It takes a while, the school seems so much bigger now. Some things change and some things remain the same. The doors were all locked or I would have gone in. I peer through the windows and down the halls and more memories come flooding back. I loved high school. I had the time of my life within these walls. I'm sure there were good times as well as uncomfortable growing pains but at this moment I can only smile and remember happiness here.
Thank you for coming home with me, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. See you next time!!
+Michelle Morrissette Cucchiaro
+My Baked Stuffed Life