In 1990, when my teaching partner, Laurel Sherry-Armstrong and I moved from Hartnell College’s Child Development Center to University Park Elementary, we were happy to become part of an elementary school community. But we were sad to lose the lovely playhouse at the Center.
We mentioned this over dinner one night with my parents, who were visiting from Lompoc. My dad (your great grandpa Lowell) said that he could design a playhouse, and would even build it, if the District would allow us to put it into our new classroom. Weeks of drawing and discussion, proposing plans and changing them, became months of waiting for the District to get back to us.
Finally, there was good news! They approved the planned two story playhouse, with stairs and a railing, to be built in room 13. Dad took the plans, built the house in pieces (walls, floor, railings, stairs), and drove it up to Salinas.
He and Great Grandma Billie, Grandpa Nelson and I, Uncle David and your Momma Katie (who were 10 and 8 at the time), Laurel and her husband George, and our friend Rick, all worked to paint the pieces. Then we put it together, laid carpet on the top floor, and even installed a bookcase and pile of pillows for reading on.
The kindergarten kids loved the playhouse. It was part kitchen, part pirate ship, part reading loft, and part cave. It was good for quiet times and silly conversations. It has been climbed on by, I guess, more than 700 kids over these 28 years.
And now, the kindergarten classes are moving, and the District hasn’t said that it will approve the playhouse for the new space or move it there. The teachers have no guarantee that it will even be on campus when they return for the next school year. Technically it belongs to me, but I only have two days left in Salinas and no way to pull it apart and move it anywhere.
This makes me very sad. There are so many things right with the playhouse, things that are missing in education these days. Imagination, thoughtful quiet time, and changes in perspective.
My only remedy was to get up extra early this morning, get you dressed, and take you up to play on the playhouse before it (maybe) goes away. You had so much fun! I looked at every inch of it, from the plaque Laurel put on after Great Grandpa Lowell died to the railing on the stairs, rubbed by hundreds of tiny hands.
When it was time for us to go, I cried a bit and said goodbye to yet another old friend.
I think I must be fighting off the cold bug that’s been going through my classroom. This morning I woke up with an icky throat and stuffy nose. Since I wasn’t needed to do anything today, I decided to really take care of myself and see if I could beat it.
I had a breakfast of healthy muesili and yogurt with blueberries, then had many cups of tea and went to bed. I read until I fell asleep. I repeated this pattern for chicken soup lunch and leftover dinner.
At 6:00, Cousin Liza and Auntie Olga got back from the ocean and brought me a lovely camellia flower! I asked where they found it and Liza said she had found it on the ground and just picked it up! Florist by serendipity.
She found a vase in my room that we put water in and then the flower. It looks beautiful sitting between the mirror and a photograph of my lovely people taken when they were in Dublin, just a few years ago.
Memory is a funny thing. Their trip to Dublin seems like so long ago, yet my mother’s passing and Liza’s birth, which happened the same year, seem like only yesterday. Maybe it’s the cold germs.