Memorable distraction

Distraction comes easy to me.

For the past 24 hours my head has been in a space I left some 66 years ago — my primary (elementary) school in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

By chance, I started clearing out some old papers while searching for a short story I’d written some years ago and which I figured might be worth updating, or at least seeing how my brain worked back then.

In this futile effort of finding the paper file, I uncovered a newspaper clipping of my classmates and boy, did I get a sudden brain rush of memory. I counted 42 kids in that class of 1953, our final year together before heading off to high school. I’d just turned 13 when the photo was taken and I realize now that I’d shared the previous eight years with most of the faces I saw. I could name each person without checking the caption.

At the end of that school year, we began the journey into our respective lives. The girls headed to their high school and the boys too theirs. We entered into different career streams and slowly the bonds of our preteen years faded. 

One face stands out in the back row. He did not make it to high school. He and I had planned to meet on the corner and cycle to the big intimidating school together. We had it planned, but sadly a couple of days before he was electrocuted by an electric drill, making a milkshake I recall.

By chance, I did meet up with a couple of these guys earlier this year during my extended holiday in the old home town. The thrill of contact fades as fast as conversation drops over the cliff of “what have you been up to?” Sixty-odd years cannot be covered in that opener. After all, my career took me away from New Plymouth in 1969. I returned there for four years in the 1980s and since then there have only been irregular family-style vacations.

My memory names our teachers, the good folk who piloted us through the basics of learning: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, as they say. The time they spent with us in the classroom and on the sports field. The fund-raising days too, like the penny (it was about the six of a loony) drive we had to line up the coins each day around the perimeter of the netball court; of delivering crates of half-pint milk to each child in each classroom.

I’m left to wonder now where each of us is and where the adventures of life have taken each one of us.