This is my middle school.
It has a chapel. Amelia, the girl I used to have a crush on, told me she wants to get married in here.
I believed her. I still do.
It has a grotto. It was a decrepit pool of stagnant water until Andrew cleaned it out.
Now it’s beautiful.
Speaking of pools…
The school’s pool isn’t big, but not many schools have a pool in the basement.
Most other schools most certainly do not have as many statues of the Virgin Mary. You’ve seen three so far.
Here’s a fourth.
We walked by this one four times a week on the way to drive our art and music teachers crazy.
None of the things above was the reason I went back, however.
I went back for the elevator.
It’s the best elevator in my world.
The elevator was ancient before I ever set foot in the school. It was, for the most part, reserved for adults and students with mobility issues. Of course, this did not deter me and my classmates from requesting rides on the elevator. Because riding on the elevator alone was strictly forbidden to students, teachers escorted us on rare occasions as a treat. The last time I rode the elevator was in the spring of 1999, no more than a few weeks before my middle school graduation. When this month’s task was chosen, I immediately thought of this elevator. My favorite elevator.
I’m going to ride it by myself, I thought. After years of cajolery and supervision, I’m going to ride the elevator alone to my heart’s content.
Getting in was easy enough. I was glad to find the elevator in working condition. I opened the door reverentially as if performing some sort of sacred ceremony. I closed the door behind me, then slid the sliding gate all the way shut. I looked at the buttons: 3 floors to choose from. I decided to go up to the 3rd floor first, to see what my old homerooms were like these days. Most of the rooms were in a transitional state: some with storage boxes stacked high, some devoid of furniture and carpeting. Classrooms on the 2nd floor were in similar states of upheaval.
I rode the elevator up and down several more times. There was no exhilaration. There was no satisfaction. My heart was not content. Sure, I got everything I had wished for on this journey, but the wish itself was empty.
I had originally wanted to write about the unexpected interactions between childish wishes and adult capabilities, but the trip itself had taken an unexpected turn. Instead of reveling in my independence, I felt so very alone. Maybe you will feel the same way after watching the video.
The elevator itself is not a proper object of desire. The initial excitement for the prospect of autonomous elevator operation masked the real reason the elevator was my favorite. I’m not partial toward vintage Otis elevators with sliding gates. I’m not one for wheedling my way into positions of exclusivity. The elevator is the best elevator in my world because it’s a part of my middle school: Notre Dame de Sion. This was the school that accepted an 11 year-old me based solely on my mother’s promise that I was a good student. This was the school that helped me learn English despite my inability to speak English on the first day of school. This was the place where I met some of my best friends. This was the place where I learned what it felt like to “like like” someone, to crush, clash, crash, and burn. And though it failed to convert me to Catholicism, it did teach me how to be a pretty decent human being.
I’ll be back again, but I won’t be asking to ride the best elevator in my world. Instead, I’ll be chatting with some of the best people in my world.
We encourage you to come share your Next Stop: Unexpected at the live show! If you post a Next Stop: Unexpected story in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
1225 W. Belmont
Wed Aug 14th
$10 or free with a shared dish/story