Horace Mann

February 26, 2008
By Brittany Jackson, Mount Vernon, IL

I drive by the old building a few times a week. The bricks are dirty, age worn, crumbling. The windowpanes are rusted. The old cement stairs I used to climb on those late mornings are disappearing before my eyes with watermelon sized chunks missing here and there.

I have thought many times of what it would be like to go back. My memories are vague, and yet powerful. The entirety of my childhood seems based around that building. I often visit in my dreams. I see the mural painted over the front entrance and still wonder at the artist. As I navigate the hallway, some rooms seem bright and welcoming and some seem dark and mysterious. Nothing has changed since I was seven. The desks are still there, the globes and the pencil sharpeners and the many shelves of books are all there. It’s like the old building is only closed down for the summer. In just a few months it will see new life.

I wake up. I drive by. Nothing is sunny about this place anymore. Nothing is the same. Going inside seems a depressing thought. I imagine spider webs and empty rooms. Maybe there are a few broken desks, broken chairs thrown here and there. I would much rather keep my last memory one of the joyous goodbyes we gave to that beloved old building in the early summer of 2001.

The last day of school that year didn’t even feel like school. Last days were usually filled with coloring pages and dousing our desks in shaving cream. That year it was different. There was a collective sadness echoing through the rooms that day. People from around town paced the halls, reminiscing. Ever so often one of them would come into our fourth grade classroom and remark on how it looked no different than they had left it.

The enemies were there, as well. The enemies had been in and out all year, wondering aloud whether or not the old building could be saved. They looked at cracked walls and missing bricks, shaking their heads. We all disliked them and often let them know of our feelings. This “old building” was our school, and it was perfectly fine. We didn’t care about windows that didn’t lock or about holes in the floor tiles. All we knew was that we were happy where we were at. We were the Mustangs and we were proud.

Similar to the fading school on Perkins Avenue, time has faded us all to the presence of our old school. Days pass, weeks, months. We all go by that place often, and yet we only think about those times fleetingly. Once in a while we may be reminded of a friend we had within those walls, or we may be reunited with an old teacher in Wal-Mart. Of course, simply because our thoughts aren’t always with the old school, doesn’t mean it isn’t always with us. All of us who went to Horace Mann Elementary School couldn’t help but be changed by it, shaped by those early years of devotion. That maroon and white mustang blood still runs through the best of us.

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