Tuesday, January 31, 2017


And LOVE to all who enter here. The brick is not one of those garden-shop inspirational ones, those with sweet sayings and mottos like Gratitude or Peace or Hope, though I do have several of those scattered about. This old fellow is from back in the late 1800’s---it is the last relic of the small-town school which my Sis and I attended.

It was torn down quite some years ago, after sitting fallow for a time, as the passing years and idle hands created a shambles in its once-filled insides. The building’s eyes, once witness to so much boisterous chatter and lively goings-on, were stone-broken and empty, victim to time and the laughing vandalism of the young---the shards of glass scattered onto the pathways and sidewalks, and onto the small desks inside, still bolted into their face-the-front tableau.

I thought of it over the years, site of all my childhood learning, place of Magellan and Paraguay and Pi,school to my grandparents, my Dad, my own generation of cool cats and Elvis and sweet flirtations in passing hallways, of droning hot afternoons in study hall or class, the wasp-whuzz against the panes as lulling in the heat as Mr. Adams’ monotone in right-after-lunch Math.

When the school was demolished, Sis bought all the hardwood from the gym floor, those pale golden inch-wide planks of our playing field with its echoes of thundering feet, cheering crowds of long-still voices as loud still as the echoes from the Circus Maximus. And Daddy got us each a brick---it was a school legend that kissing beneath or pressed against one of the few out-facing ones with the word LOVE visible on it was almost as good as a Promise Ring---you were steadies thenceforth.

And it’s a wonder that there was an imprint left, for it was Good Luck to run your fingers across one on Exam Day or Finals or that quiz you didn’t study for. Or to grant your wishes that Jimmy Parsons would ask YOU to the after-game dance. I imagined that the grooves of the L and the E looked a bit shallow over the years, eroded by countless finger-smoothings to little shallow wells, and the O a small cup in the brick.
Click to blow it up---let LOVE fill your screen. See the little remnants of mortar in the letters---this fellow probably spent his life lying down between his comrades, laid square and true into the pattern, holding up the whole. And so, no fingermarks, no touches from hopeful small hands, no light-of-day until the wrecking-ball smashed so many of the long-standing bricks, and left mine to fall untouched into the pile. It seems that "my" brick might have been part of a corner of the building, for there's a paler rim around two sides---the deep purple of the face still the dark of the clay and firing, and the two small strips of "frame" could have been rain and sun-bleached into a lighter shade.
We never gave a thought that the word DIDN’T carry happy wishes; the pure commercial aspect that it might be the name of the brick company never entered our romantic little heads. OUR school said LOVE, and even the folks listed as “VISITORS” on the big bright scoreboard would stroll over and touch the word for luck.
And before a game, any game---or even before they boarded the old yellow bus to go to another town for a game, the players all scrambled down the backside of the building, giving a rub to the "V" for VICTORY. It was like the run down the line on the field, slapping the hands of teammates for luck. I'd love to see one of THOSE bricks today, smoothed into a valley by all those rough farmboy hands.
I think about who might have touched it---was it Daddy's teenage hands, so callused at his young age, from the work on the farm? Perhaps my own Grandmother, a blushing young girl whose schooldays ended in the eighth grade, or one of my dear Aunts, beautiful in their teen years, humbled by their homemade clothes and passed-down shoes, and all inspired to do better in their later lives, as they grew into even more beautiful strong, smart women, with dash and flair and lovely outfits and perfume. Was it a young man of my own generation or a hopeful girl I knew, gently tracing the letters, with a wish upon each? 

And so I spent my schooldays, in those hot, frozen-in-time, ever-changing days of the evolving South, going every day into those doors, to the scents of chalk and childhood, to be embraced and sheltered by thousands of graven images of LOVE.

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