When I left California in 2003, I couldn’t have known that it would be a decade before I would return.
It was bittersweet to say the least, walking down memory lane two years ago with my dear friend, revisiting places where we had both once lived, parks and beaches where our children had played and picnicked together, and schools our children had attended so many years before.
Snapping this photo, I remembered my children’s first day at Pat Butler Elementary School. We had just moved to beautiful Paso Robles having escaped from a crazed neighbour’s violent threats, and a fresh, safe, albeit slightly nerve-wracking start awaited us.
As the years went by, this became our familiar spot where the kids waited for me after school. “Meet you at the pole”, they would say when we said our goodbyes in the mornings. And so we met, every afternoon.
The school entrance looked exactly as I remembered it. Warm, Californian spring air stirred up shadows from the past: of me as a young mum, walking my boys to their first day of a brand new school, holding small, sweet hands, pushing my infant daughter in her stroller, knowing not a soul.
We were strangers in the land.
But in ten years of life and school within a community of friends, of PTA meetings, of field trips and parent evenings, of plays and awards assemblies, of D.A.R.E events, of Scholastic Book Fairs, sports and graduations, laughter and tears, class parties and endless cupcake baking, we found a home.
This photo is a symbol of that life, of that home.
Life moves on, my children are adults, their school days long gone. Now it is the turn of another generation of children and their parents, unknown to me and me to them.
I wondered if any of the same teachers still taught there. I smiled as I remembered rushing down to read the list posted in the office window, desperate to find out who my children’s teachers would be for the new school year. Another friend and I used to joke about the stomach aches we gave ourselves, so anxious that our kids got the ‘good teachers’.
All of that seemed so silly, standing there ten years later, once again a stranger.
They say it isn’t always a good idea to go back. But I write memoir and so I have to go back, all the time. But it isn’t to dredge up a painful past for the sake of it, nor to stoke into flames bitter embers of a life lost. No. I believe that sometimes we have to go back to remember because it helps us understand. Then at last, in that understanding, we are able to tell our story.
And in telling the story, we know the ‘why’ for doing so: we have connection and we hold our heads high and we are strangers no more.
Thanks again to lovely Irene and Norah for inviting me to join in with the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge. Today I’m inviting lovely, skilled friend Pauline of ‘The Contended Crafter’. No obligation Pauline, only if you want to and whenever you can. And if any of you wants to know how to make a beautiful Light Catcher, I urge you to run not walk to her latest post. Absolutely stunning.
This post is not the one I intended. The story I had in mind was a very different one, but writing is a strange thing and so I went with the story that yelled the loudest. It also links in with the Weekly Photo Challenge of ‘Symbol’.