Kim Tracy Prince '93 | August 20, 2018
It is August, and the Sunday paper arrives with a thwack, sailing from the dark van window to the middle of my driveway. Today it is filled with back-to-school sale flyers, and my brain automatically creates a budget for clothes shopping. An image pops into my head unbidden: me at 14, with feathered hair and irrepressible pride, in my new purple corduroys with matching purple plaid blouse, thin pipes of gold thread shimmering through it like a blessing.
I haven’t been to school in 20 years, but the ebb and flow of the academic calendar became body memory long ago. That same knowledge allows me to drive through the hometown I visit only once a year, without knowing the directions, because my body remembers the turns and hills.
At first, going back to school in September was a distraction from the real work of living. School interrupted the days of imagining in the backyard, the sun flaring off the tall weeds in the “way back” that nobody ever mowed. We had games to play and alleys where we rode our bikes, a few dingy square blocks the stage of our real-life Narnia.
We also had our grandmother’s in-ground pool. Our mother often drove us there after breakfast in whatever secondhand piece-of-junk car we owned at the time. We arrived with watermelons and cookies. Grandmother gave us juice, graham crackers and Oodles of Noodles. She had a milk box by the back door. We looked in it every time we came over. The box never held any milk, but at least once a year we found an Easter egg.
As my legs grew longer and I began to tower over my friends, school brought welcome beginnings, middles and ends to my days. A gangly 12-year-old can only ride her bike and pretend to be in Narnia for so long, and then she must fantasize about boys and dance to Madonna in her bedroom and record the songs on cassette tape so she can play them over and over and write down the lyrics.