When I was an angst-filled teenager the mere thought of destroying Milton-Union High School would have aroused my appetite for carnage.
And to be honest that’s exactly how I felt last week when a small army of industrial cranes and bulldozers actually descended on my old stomping grounds and struck the death blows to critical structural areas that sent the three-storied beast to the ground in a billow of dust, asbestos and shameful memories.
This three-ring circus was performed before the gawking audience of past graduates and ranks from the unemployed who all turned out to witness some old-fashioned wanton destruction like uninvited funeral guests. When the last mighty pillar fell the emotional crowd lost themselves in reminiscence.
For added effect, one of the cigar-chomping bulldozer operators created a large pile of red bricks at the perimeter of the safe zone in case sentimental onlookers wanted a memento from their alma mater. The crowd members frenzied as they anxiously scavenged the broken pile of brick and mortar for souvenirs like a child picking up his own teeth after a nasty fistfight.
As I watched from the distance I was confused with how I should feel.
I’m 33 and my 15-year high school reunion is quickly approaching. So my old high school being torn down doesn’t make me feel old. Now my upcoming 15-year reunion? Well, that’s another story.
Or maybe sad? No, I thought, definitely not sad. Sad would be crowding around debris and scavenging bricks because I’m too fickle to realize I don’t need a symbolic piece of cinderblock to recall my glory days. At the risk of sounding like every 1990s made-for-television movie, which were quite popular when I attended high school, I believe a little piece of where you came from always stays with you on the inside — even if you don’t want it to.
I recollect the chaotically infamous food fight of 1998 that I helped orchestrate on the day of the National Honor Society ceremony when a small portion of my classmates were dressed to impress in their Sunday best. They served ravioli that day. The debauchery that ensued brings to mind scenes of Vietnam movie outtakes.
Even though this might come off as boyish love and clearly violate the standard student/teacher relationship, I can still remember exactly how Mrs. Levine’s perfume smelled, how her command of the English word inspired me, and how I really wished her name was Miss Levine.
Or the pig-nosed senior threatened me on my first day as a freshman.
“I heard you’re a funny guy,” the senior said. “If you don’t make me laugh by the end of the year, I’ll rearrange your face!”
And how, on exactly the last day of school, I made him laugh so hard he peed himself a little.
Ah, I have so many memories.
When I really stop and think about it the only thing I can’t remember about high school is what I learned while I was there.
I’m firm in my belief that it’s not where you come from that matters, it’s who you become.
Because all in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.