This was my school. It still is.
The building is over a hundred years ago. It had no AC but the deep recesses of the verandahs kept the classrooms cool. I came here as a little girl after attending kindergarten elsewhere and left a teenager, full of dreams. My dreams seemed so impossible, they were best left unspoken, so I never shared them with friends or family. I am still friends with my two best friends from school. Despite the distance of decades, we picked up on social media like goodbye, was yesterday.
The space behind the roses was where morning assembly was held. The Principal, a nun, would walk out on to the platform and silence descended on the few hundred children as she led the school hymn and The Lord’s Prayer. I’m pretty sure there were more non-Catholics than Catholics in this school. We prayed as one. The Head Girl would then read out notices as we waited patiently in heat for this to finish. We would then walk, grouped by class year, in a single line, to our respective classrooms and the day would begin.
My school learning was steeped in facts and figures. It also had a strict moral code of do no harm to others. I had teachers who are memorable for the dreams they had for their students. I studied and played with students who had bigger dreams than me and were brave enough to voice them when given a platform. And, when the dreams did not materialize, they are braver than me. So my learning continues.
To the left of the picture was the school chapel. I loved visiting it. It sat in the middle of two main play areas and yet it was a cool sanctuary. The pews were made of polished wood. The floor, marble. From memory, there was always a nun tending to something or the other at the altar that was covered with a crisp piece of white linen, trimmed with hand woven lace. A young woman swabbed the chapel floor from altar to door and then started on wiping down the pews. Her efforts kept the chapel immaculate. I went to the chapel every single day for a few minutes. I prayed here silently. And in this place of resonance, my dreams boomed back at me. And, so it will be.
I have not visited my birth country in decades. But I visit the chapel every single morning. I find it under sky. In the Australian bush. In the outback. In a paddock. On an empty back road. By the sea. Or river. In a shell. In a birdsong. In people’s eyes. In people’s words, spoken and written. And today, in my backyard. And, like the child I was, while in the chapel I dare to dream big. The message is always the same. And, so it will be.
Memories of school can be traumatic for some. I know I have some that I would love to erase permanently. But when balanced, I find some memorable moments outweigh others exponentially.
May you find a memory that takes you back to a place where you started becoming who you are today.
Until next time
a dawn bird