Last night I found myself fumbling through a collection of “stuff” that had been accumulating for years down in nether regions of my basement.
I’m sure it’s something that everyone does from time to time — going through weathered cardboard containers of old photographs, love letters and school yearbooks that clutter basements and attic crawl spaces. Of course, some of these “memories” I had told myself to dispose of years ago and yet, here they still are.
I suppose it’s just as well. It’s always nice for me to remember the curious, artistic, naive child I once
was am. And by now you should be fully aware of my affection for life milestones. If there’s an anniversary of a memorable day, I love to talk about it – and today is no different. Because buried deep beneath the mounds of 1970′s comic books, VHS tapes and teenaged poetry I discovered a ribbon. And not just any regular old run-of-the-mill ribbon mind you. This was a single, purple-colored ribbon with the words “Porter School 1978-1979 – 1st” emblazoned upon it.
I tried to remember what huge endeavor I must have overcome 35 years ago to achieve this great glory. Fortunately, there was a tag affixed to the ribbon which gave me the answer.
It was near the last day of fourth grade – June 5th, 1979 to be exact. My elementary school had a fun-filled day planned at a nearby park. Kids competed with each other in games of skill like the egg toss and three-legged race – and to each victor there went a win, place or show ribbon!
This particular award I won by besting at least a hundred students in the Sack Race. (Ok, that’s a bit embellished, but to a nine-year old boy who had come in first place for the very first time, it felt like I had just won a marathon).
This ribbon is also significant because it was the final year of school before they tore down Porter Elementary. A school that had stood for nearly 88 years in Easton’s south side but by this point had become obsolete and a bit of an eye sore. By fall, I’d find myself being bussed across the city limits to Palmer Elementary School and away from my typical routine of walking three blocks to school every day. It was the first time in my life that I had experienced such a drastic change from my normal, comfortable schedule.
What’s ironic is that in my discovery of the 1st place ribbon, I also stumbled upon another award I had won. It was exactly one year to the day of my victory on the grid-iron that my fifth grade class placed second in the Silent Spelling competition of 1980. Yet through all of the other triumphs that would follow, nothing from my childhood tops that final end of school victory at Porter Elementary.
Busing to schools quickly became the new norm. Then there were school lockers, late bells, final exams, adolescence, girls, graduation…. you get the picture. Every year more and more responsibility and every year the award (much like its blue color that slowly became purple) faded further and further into history.
Looking back, winning that ribbon was a wonderful achievement. But I don’t think I kept it around after all this time simply because I won the Sack Race in fourth grade. No, the real reason this ribbon still exists thirty-five years later is because it will always remind me of an innocence I once had.