The Ribbon

photo 2Last 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 we all do from time to time — rummage through weathered cardboard boxes of old photographs, love letters and school yearbooks cluttering our basements and attic crawl spaces. Some of these memories I had told myself to dispose of years ago and yet, here they still were.

I suppose it’s just as well. It’s always nice to remember the curious, artistic, naive child I once was am. To my surprise and delight, buried deep beneath the mounds of torn comic books, VHS tapes and musty notebooks filled with teenaged poetry, I found a ribbon. And not just any regular old run-of-the-mill ribbon mind you. This was a single, purplish-colored ribbon with the words “Porter School 1978-1979 – 1st” emblazoned upon it.

I tried to remember what huge endeavor I must have overcome 44 years ago to achieve such great glory. Fortunately, a tag affixed to the ribbon gave me the answer.

photo 1It was near the last day of fourth grade at Porter Elementary School – June 5th, 1979 to be exact. My elementary school had a fun-filled day planned at a nearby park to celebrate the end of another year of school and the pending arrival of summer. Kids competed with each other in many 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 more than a thousand students in the Sack Race. Ok, that’s a bit embellished, but to a nine-year old boy who had never won anything in his entire life, 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, truth be told, a bit of an eye sore. By fall of that year, I’d find myself being bussed across town to Palmer Elementary School and away from my typical routine of walking three blocks to school every day and making daily after school stops at Lucey’s for some penny candy. It was the first time in my life I’d experienced such a drastic change from my normal, comfortable schedule.

Porter School (Circa 1979)
Porter School (circa 1979)

What’s ironic is that in my discovery of the 1st place ribbon, I also stumbled upon another award I had won. This one exactly one year to the day of my victory on the sack race grid-iron. It was a second place finish in the 5th Grade Silent Spelling competition of 1980. Yet through all of the other triumphs that would follow for me, nothing compared to that final end of school victory at Porter Elementary.

Second Place exactly one year later.
Second Place – exactly one year later.

Busing to school quickly became the new norm, and I’d be introduced to school lockers, late bells, final exams, adolescence, girls, graduation…. you get the picture. Every year more and more responsibility and every year the Sack Race Award (much like its blue color becoming a dull purple) fading further and further into my memory.

Looking back all these years later, winning that ribbon was a wonderful achievement, and the award now sits prominently in my curio cabinet, which is on display to tell my life story. But I don’t think I kept it around after all these years simply because I won the Sack Race in fourth grade.

No, the real reason this ribbon still exists forty-four years later is because it will always remind me of an innocence I once had.

15 thoughts on “The Ribbon”

  1. Visiting from the yeah write weekly writing challenge.
    Last month while hunting for something else in a closet, I came across a similar box of nostalgia. It’s funny how a simple object can spark so many memories.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! It’s funny how so many of us have these boxes of memories tucked away… and how therapeutic it can be to open them up from time to time. 🙂

  2. Aw. We all need to be reminded of such things. I was musing the other day about photos. I hate having my picture taken nowadays. But, it is the pictures of my youth that really cement the memories of those events so well in my brain. It’s a shame we don’t get more chances to be in sack races and other stuff as adults. I guess being on the yeahwrite grid is similar, come to think of it.

    1. I feel the same way. I do not like having my picture taken either. But seeing pictures of the platinum blonde boy from the late 1970’s always makes me smile. I might have to check out the yeahwrite grid – I’m always up for another “sack race”… 🙂

  3. As a kid, I didn’t like those things they wrote on the back of the colorful ribbons they gave us for winning something. Somehow I had this idea that it cheapened the ribbon. Now, I’m so glad they did, or like you, I would never remember what exactly they were each for!! Even just seeing your picture of the back of your ribbon feels nostalgic to me.

    1. I am glad I wrote on the back of it. Just seeing my handwriting from that long ago spark so many memories. I made a similar “discovery” a year or so ago. My brother still lives in the house we grew up in. One day he started tearing down layers of paneling to remodel the bathroom when he discovered some writing we had done as kids back in 1977. At the time, our parents didn’t care because they were covering it up and thank goodness they didn’t. I stood there and stared at my writing for the longest time just remembering the child who wrote it. — If you want, you can read about it in an entry called “Time Capsule”:

  4. I’m a saver of everything, so on those occasions when I go through all my stuff, it’s like Christmas. So much fun to look back at it all and reminisce about the life I’ve lived and all the people who’ve been in it. Fantastic post!

    1. Thanks Linda! I’m glad you liked the post. I’m the same way as you. I love going through these treasure chests of memories and reminiscing about life and the things I’ve enjoyed over the years.

  5. The BEST day in elementary school was field day, it was where you won and lost friends. Congratulations on your achievement, I’d wear that as a badge of honor for a LONG TIME. 🙂

  6. This makes me wonder where all my ribbons went…darned if I can’t even remember what they were for.

    1. I remember being hesitant about writing down what they were for back then. I thought the writing would somehow soil the achievement. SO glad I did it.

    1. Coming in second place is awesome! It means that only one person was better than you that day. 🙂

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