When Grade School Calls

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Today, we welcome guest blogger, Sam Troxal. Thanks, Sam!

I was in the office working on January 2. The day felt “in between.” The hospital where I work had done a systemic computer conversion on New Year’s Day. Because our first day back in the office after the holiday and the computer conversion fell on a Friday, everything just felt in between. We wouldn’t fully launch into the new computer system until Monday. Friday was laid back—in between.

When my friend from grade school, Yvonne, called that she was in town and asked if I could meet for lunch, it was perfect for me. Yvonne and I went to Centerton Elementary School 40-some years ago. We decided the last time she was in town that our first class together was Mrs. McNeff’s third grade class.

porch light down the street
lone and dim against the black
January night

Yvonne now lives in Canada where her husband teaches. She went to university in the town where I now live. We weren’t particularly close in grade school but it’s one of the beauties of Facebook—and love of my adopted hometown—that brings us together when she is back visiting family.

all is black outside
will daylight ever return
winter hovers

Somehow Dixie Davenport came up in our lunch conversation. I had just thought of Dixie that morning on my way to work. I will eternally remember my mother reading the newspaper a few days after the end of fourth grade asking me if I knew this little Dixie Davenport girl. When she told me she had drowned, I suddenly understood how temporary life can be.

I guess no one I knew had died before; maybe some elderly family members I didn’t really know or family pets but children who sat across from me at school and played on the playground with me didn’t die.

the trees feel empty
against winter’s cold black sky
but they have secrets

We talked that her parents probably think Dixie has been forgotten by everyone else but she isn’t forgotten to Yvonne and me. Dixie had told on me to the teacher that last day of school and I was mad at her. I sat with that the afternoon that my mother told me about Dixie. That was the day that I suddenly understood conscience.

People—even children—are gone. Gone before you get the chance to say good bye. Before you get the chance to say I’m sorry. Before you get the chance to express that your smile and curly hair will linger in my memory for the next fifty years and more, Dixie. Not even I knew in fourth grade that I would remember Dixie long after I had forgotten those vague faces who went on with Yvonne and me to junior high and high school.

It’s funny the things we remember from grade school that we didn’t plan to remember. In a way, we don’t get to pick and choose what we will remember—or when we will remember it. Sometimes a memory is triggered decades later and suddenly I am back there in that moment—like the memories that are triggered over lunch with Yvonne.

trees at the edges
of fields and at the fence rows
like where I grew up

I see Yvonne and wonder, what are we doing here?! We’re supposed to be on the playground at Centerton. We’re supposed to be drinking chocolate milk or eating chili at lunch. To this day, because chili day was also cinnamon roll day, I want a cinnamon roll to dip in my chili.

While we’ve been going on with our lives, Yvonne said with such joy that Dixie has been up in heaven this whole time. I don’t usually get into talk of heaven and I don’t really even know what it all means. It just seems right in all the in-between places in my life that dear, sweet Dixie has been there all along.

Sam Troxal lives and writes haiku in Bloomington, Indiana, where he works as a healthcare enrollment counselor bringing healthcare coverage to those most likely to be left out of healthcare coverage. He attends First United Church where his favorite role is doorkeeper of the house of God. He is a Benedictine oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove Indiana.

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