Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mundus Novus: The New World

There were a lot kids in Sandy.

A. Lot. Of. Kids.

Our neighborhood was a collection of new, modestly priced, mid-sized houses -- just the kind of place a young family with small children would move into. And that's exactly who bought the houses on Woodchuck and Falcon and Quail Hollow, and all the other streets in this new community. Dozens of young couples, in their mid to late twenties, with one or two young children, came and built a home and a life for their family, nestled in the foothills, in the shadow of the Wasatch mountain range.

It was Terra Nova - -a new land. It was an unwritten manuscript. The area had no stories to tell. There were no neighborhood memories. There was no old guard to replace. We plowed the ground and planted the seeds of adventure and legend. We wrote the first chapters.

Like Lewis and Clark, we saw the first sights.

Like Columbus, we found the new routes.

Like Neil Armstrong...

We left the first footprints.

This was Mundus Novus: A new world.

And, eventually, all these kids would need to go to school.

For awhile, kindergarten through second grade for me, we shared a school with the small community of Granite, in an old mining settlement, to the southeast of us, near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon: Granite Elementary.

We were the Grizzlies.

Granite was where I had my first kiss, got in my first fight, and played on equipment made of steel, over a playground covered in gravel. It was a heartier time. There was a small neighborhood cemetery, south of the playground, where we would occasionally kick the stray soccer ball. I was in the second grade when we learned to sing a new song, from a new movie, starring the Muppets. The song was The Rainbow Connection. I still love that song.

Second grade, at Granite Elementary, was also my first experience with the publishing industry, working on the "yearbook staff" for a quaint yearbook that I still have. And still treasure.

And it was crowded.

There were so many kids at Granite Elementary that they were forced to stagger the class times. Some of us came extra early in the morning, others came later, and stayed at school until late in the afternoon. This couldn't last for long, and it didn't.

In the autumn of the 1981-82 school year, Quail Hollow Elementary opened it's doors for the first time.

There was only one road that made it all the way to the school -- Quail Hollow, naturally, the world's longest road -- and I assume that that is why it got it's name. That school year we had a contest to name a mascot. The winner? Quail. Naturally.

What else would it be?

(There are a lot of quail in Sandy).

Fear the mighty quail! Yeah, even back then it didn't strike much fear into anyone.

Aaron and I were in the third grade that year, in Mr. Aders' class. They only put us in the same class every three years. It probably took that long for them to forget why they shouldn't put us in the same class. Mr. Aders' class was as much fun as I ever had in school. I'm not sure what you are supposed to learn in the third grade. I already knew how to read, and do general math. I think we learned cursive in the fourth grade. Third grade must have been a coaster year.

Third grade stands out to me for five reasons:

1. That was the year Raiders of the Lost Ark came out. That's a big deal.

2. Mr. Aders would tell stories to us every day. He just made them up, and incorporated the names of the students as names of characters. I was some kind of a giant sucking monster.

3. Mr Aders would also let us pick a treasure from his treasure box. These were handy little plastic trinkets, that made great weapons, when tied to a string, for Aaron and I to whip each other with, when we were fighting over girls. Those were good times...

4. Third grade was where I acquired the four inch scar on my right arm. Sometime that fall, as Aaron and I were half horsing around, half scuffling, at lunch recess, I took a swing at him, and fearing my devastating right hook, he held up his left arm to defend himself. The arm with the watch, with the very sharp corners. It sliced a chunk right out of my arm. Momentarily, I could see the inner workings of my arm, before the blood began to flow. School had only been in session for about a month. Sometimes I wonder if I was the first to spill blood on that playground? And in the classroom. And down the hall. And in the office...

I wonder if they keep those kinds of records...?

And finally, that year stands out, because the school wasn't finished. They were still building it when we began to attend. Many of the rooms didn't have finished ceilings. But, mostly, I remember the styrofoam containers. The cafeteria was not completed (who planned this building project?) and for lunch we received a styrofoam container full of food, that we either ate outside, or at our desks, back in the classroom.

I went back to the school, on a Saturday, a couple of years back, and walked the grounds. The bricks on the building felt the same. I felt like I knew every inch of the property. I could hear the sound of the big, rubber playground balls, bouncing on the asphalt, and the basketballs swishing through the metal nets. I could see the lists on the windows, telling us whose class we would be in for the next school year. The playground was covered in something safer than gravel, but I could still hear the distinct crunch of children jumping from swings, and landing in the nice soft rocks. I could hear the bell, calling us in. I could see the windows that I drew my attention on those days when I daydreamed of standing between my class and a horde of alien invaders...and liking the odds. I could see faces of friends I still know, and kids that are nothing but memories.

Like everything else in our world, the school was new territory. We broke it in with our voices and our dirty shoes, our sweaty little kid smell, and our laughter. Our blood (or, at least my blood). Our minds were the first to be enlarged in that building. Our stories were the first echo through the halls. Our ghosts have haunted the classrooms the longest.

It was a new world, and, like the swings on the playground, we set it in motion.

1 comment:

Kimmie said...

Chris... I have to let you know how much I have thoroughly LOVED and ENJOYED your posts about your childhood! I had a not so happy childhood, came from a dysfunctional home and so I was always envious of other kids who were allowed to be KIDS!! You have such a wonderful way of writing and drawing people in! I feel as though I am getting a chance to relive childhood when I read your thoughts!! OH and you are someone that has impacted my life for good! So grateful for Project 365 and the "photo family" I was able to be a part of! I have everlasting friendships from that! Thanks for being an influence for good! Your words of wisdom that you shared with me when I posted about playing piano in church: "There is a world of wonderful and positive experiences that open up to you, when you face your fears head on", have been something that I have used with my own sons and other kids I work with! Thanks for inspiring and uplifting us! Keep being awesome!