It's where I learned to fall in line.
Where I learned to share with others.
Where I learned to work as a team.
Where I learned that there were others who had different stories to tell, who didn't live their lives exactly like mine. And that was okay.
It's where I learned to take a nap, on the floor, with a bunch of other kids.
It's where my education began.
I will never forget getting in a line, outside the doors, along the brown brick wall. Our class was the first door on the right: you went in, took off your outdoor shoes and put on slippers, hung up any jackets, put your hat in the cubby, above.
In the winter, it was a bigger ordeal, but the teacher got through it. My only memory of Mrs. Sainthill is that she was kind, pretty, and soft-spoken. Even when I took another student's toy car, claiming it was my own, she spoke softly to the five-year-old me.
"Are you sure that car belongs to you, Ross?"
"Yes, it's mine."
"Because ---- says it's his, and I saw him playing with it earlier today. Are you sure that you're not thinking of one that you have, that looks just like this one, that you have at home?" That was my way out.
"Okay. Why don't you let ---- have it. If you get home today and your car isn't there, we can talk about it again, tomorrow."
I didn't have that car, but Mrs. Sainthill was able to softly, kindly, negotiate the car's return to its rightful owner, without issue.
When I was in kindergarten, that classroom seemed huge. Indeed, by today's classroom standards, it's still a good size. But at 52, looking at the tiny tables and chairs, seeing the miniature toilets, I felt oversized.
DD16, who accompanied me as I walked the halls of Century Public School for the last time, had to laugh in this room.
"Oh my gosh," she said with a wide grin, "look at these chairs! How can anyone fit in them?"
"You were just as small, not so long ago." I remembered visiting her kindergarten class, now almost a dozen years ago. I seemed like yesterday. How she proudly showed DW and me her desk and her work. And now, almost as tall as I am, she giggled at the tininess of everything in this room.
It hadn't changed a bit; not really. Yes, a projector extended from an arm in the ceiling. A computer and monitor filled the teacher's desk (the desk wasn't in the same spot as Mrs. Sainthill's, but that didn't matter). But the tables could have been the same ones that I used, for their appearance.
Stepping into this classroom, the first classroom of my academic life, was a step back in time. I could almost see myself, during nap time, curled on a blanket on a spot on the floor. Looking at the bathroom stalls, I remember when Kevin had an accident, and his classmates laughing at him as he started taking off his pants before he got to the stall.
Mrs. Sainthill firmly but softly told us that it wasn't polite to laugh, and that everyone has accidents at some point in his or her life.
This is where my education began and where my tour of my old school ends. I didn't leave by the kindergarten exit; rather I walked out through the main doors, next to the office, just a short distance from the corridor that led to the kindergarten classrooms. I felt somewhat sad, as DD16 and I left, as I said to her, "I will never step in that building again."
I wasn't in the first year of that school, nor even in the second year. It wasn't until the school's third year that I began as a student. I didn't finish grade 6 there, either, having left during the Christmas break to finish that year in a different school.
But I'll never forget this school, now with its doors closed and locked, for the last time as Century Public.
Not just the hallways and room, nor just the teachers and students. I still have very close friends, to this day, whom I met at this school. We still share memories all these years later, and it's those memories that will keep this school alive, in our hearts.
You never forget your first.