She is standing there alone in the hall . . . the prettiest girl in school . . . that day . . . looking at me as I'm singing this song to her. The problem is, for some reason, I'm standing just outside the door. I'm singing to her. And, try as I might, I cannot stop the big heavy white door from closing. I'm straining on the door, singing the song, growing more and more desperate by the note because, at last, I have her full attention and this is my big chance. She's gonna start singing back to me. I just know it! But, I cannot hold the door open . . . and it shuts . . . and I can't pry it back open. And my chance, the one I have waited for, for at least two years, is gone with the closing of that door.
"Whoooaaa, I lo-o-o-ve you . . ."
I wake up and the First Edition is singing the final refrains of their hit song on the am radio beside my bed. I do no better with girls in my dreams than in real life. It seems that one would be less disappointing than the other. I'm only in the 7th or 8th grade and there is a multitude of disappointing hours ahead of me - awake and asleep. To this day, I can't hear the song without thinking of the dream or the girl or the door or the school building it was attached to.
This is only one of several dreams I remember that took place on the grounds of Bentonia High School, or Bentonia Attendance Center, or Anding, whichever some of you might remember. There was one nightmare where a robot I had read about in a Superman comic book was chasing me all over the campus. There were a few where I had been left there by myself at night for some reason.
I last went to school at Bentonia in the 9th grade, 1969, but, it still stands out as "where I went to school". My two years at Benton, and the relationships I cherish from there, mean a lot to me as well, and as much as I would enjoy a reunion with my Benton Academy classmates, I would enjoy a reunion with my Bentonia school mates, many of whom are one and the same.
For all those years, coming home, I usually "come in" on Hwy 49 to Little Yazoo, and start back on 433 through Bentonia. Always, on the way "in", I have looked at the old school, vacant for many years, and tried for a memory or a feeling that would take me back there for just a moment. Well, I'm not sure that's gonna to happen anymore. Driving by the old school on my way up home on Easter Sunday, I see that the old school is not there anymore. It was just a smoldering pile of rubble. All that is left standing is the gym - of course. To be sure, it has been a sad sight for a good while now. The roof was caving in. Had it not been torn down, it would have fallen down sooner or later. Still, it is kind of a sad thing. Will the memories go the way of the buildings? Probably not. It's just that those old buildings put something solid to the memories. They helped us pass those memories on to our children.
"That's where my old school used to be" doesn't paint quite the same picture when the "used to be" is just a vacant lot. It's more like something we just made up when the tangible evidence that it did once exist is gone. The plays, the recitals, Friday "chapel", the magic shows, the movies about Jesus . . . the building is now just like them. It's a memory. No less a part of us who were there, it will play no part in the lives of the next generation that drives by. They have their own memories to make anyway. It's too bad, though, that "they" don't get to remember some of the same stuff "we" do!
It would have been nice, though, to take a tour. I would like to have seen how different it all looked to an adult. And maybe some of those smells lingered. Smell is such a great memory jogger. (- Sidebar -) We were in Bath and Body Works a week or so ago. I don't know what I looked like, but, I could not stop picking up the scented candles and smelling them. I kept expecting to get arrested, or invited to leave. It was like a drug or something. So many of them took me to the edge of a memory. I couldn't quite get it. It was frustrating. I would breathe deep the various scents, and feel for a brief moment as if I were being transported back to a certain time and place in my past, but I never quite got there! (Back to Bentonia -) If only I could have stood in that hall, or the auditorium, or the gym, or the library/study hall, there is no telling where one good whiff could have taken me. But now, the smells, if they were there at all, are not even part of the rubble. They have been released into the air and are beyond our reach.
Who knows, though? Maybe some day one of us will pick up a candle, take a whiff, and be instantly, if only briefly, carried back to those days in the rooms and hallways at Bentonia. And maybe, for a bonus, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition will be heard through the static of an am radio singing the kind of song dreams area made of.
I was just thinkin', had I known the school was going to be demolished anyway, I might have made a special trip up there just so I could tear that door right off the hinges. . . singing all the while!
And lest we remain too closely bound to the things of this world, past, present, or future, here is something well worth remembering: