The most emotional moment of my reunion weekend in Chattanooga involved a visit to our old elementary school.
Henry L. Barger was a baby-boom school extraordinaire. Built in 1955 or 56. new classrooms had to be added in 1958 to accommodate us all. My first-grade was a make-shift room carved out of the lobby and the teachers' lounge; we didn't have hard walls, just a big divider curtain. By the time we arrived for second grade, there were 10-12 new rooms added to the building. And - bam! - just like that, the education baby boom was off and running.
Anyway, like my old homestead, Barger is in great disrepair. This was clearly evident, as we pulled into the back driveway of the school and decided to have a walk-around. Lots of ugly classroom trailers and junk stacked up against the windows. Ugh! It had been such a lovely example of 1950s modernist school architecture - lots of light and windows.
But there in the distance, back in the farthest reaches of the playground was - could it be? Yes! Our ancient playground equipment! We were lucky enough to have been the tots to break the stuff in, back when it was new, sturdy gun-metal gray - the old slide, the "hand-walkers" - one large, one smaller, and the ever-popular "magic carpet." Well, that's what we called it, anyway. It was a grid of bars in the shape of, well, a magic carpet.
That magic carpet was the scene of many flips and stunts of derring-do. We prided ourselves on the number of blisters we got on our hand. The school nurse had to paint Mercurochrome faces on our little hands to cover those blisters.
The stunts also led to several trips to the emergency room to sew up split lips and head wounds. But it never crossed anyone's mind to sue the school or teachers for negligence. Ah, those were the days.
I did get a bit misty when I touched the bars of the magic carpet for the first time in 45+ years the other afternoon. What joy that funny piece of metal gave us during countless recess periods!
And it's still there. Keeping all the stories of all the children to itself. It may no longer be a clean, sturdy structure, but even under chipped yellow paint, it will always loom large in our childhood history. Our version of The Giving Tree, I suppose. A real, honest-to-goodness magic carpet. (And it didn't collapse under our weight, either.)