We moved to Oklahoma in the summer of 1989. It was just before my 9th birthday. I can remember being sad to leave my home and so nervous for the unknown. We arrived here in what seemed like the middle of the night, which thinking about it now had probably added to my apprehensions of my new home. I recall going into the house and my mom showing me where my room was. I sat in there for a little bit by myself taking in my new surroundings. It seemed so empty. After a short time, I went to leave the room, and somehow I got all mixed up on where I was in this new place. The tiny hall felt like a labyrinth maze. I remember being frightened and lost feeling for just a split second. I heard mom call my name, and I ran to her voice. When I found her, she could tell that I was scared. She pulled me close to her and held me. That was the last time I can remember being frightened in that house. I knew if mom was there, it was all going to be ok.
It didn’t take long after that night for me and my siblings to settle in. The morning light revealed all sorts of new wonders and places for exploring. We soon found that our new neighborhood was teaming with kids and they brought us in like we had been there all along. The apprehensions I had had that first night, they seemed to fade away. My dad was working, and seemed to enjoy being here. My brother, sister, and I had new companions that we would quickly make life long friendships with. But mom was having a little harder time being in a new place. Yes she would smile and laugh with us kids, but when she was out of sight and thought we couldn’t see, I can remember her crying. Sometimes she would come outside and sit on the old wicker chair she had on the porch and watch us play. I would run up to her in excitement, telling her all about the fun things I had been doing with my new friends. I’d look at her in the eyes and saw that they were puffy and tear stained. She would smile anyway and listen to my words intently. She spent a lot of time on the phone with my aunt, who she loved dearly. I know they both had a hard time being separated by so many miles.
Months went by, and mom had made a few new acquaintances. She and the mom of my new best friend at the end of the street began to visit some, and after an impromptu camping trip to the nearby lake, she took up with a sweet lady who had camped near by. These two women turned out to be the best friends she had on this earth while she was still with us. They were precious to her.
Even with her new friends though, mom still seemed sad, like she didn’t feel settled in. She started taking us to a church in town, and this started the change that would help her to plant herself in this new place.
The church that we attended had a preschool that it ran. It was called the Moving Up Preschool. After several months of attending the church, my mother was asked if she would be interested in being the teacher there. She accepted. I recall her being excited and nervous at the same time. She spent hours situating the little building into an inviting place for the kids to come. She stenciled out the alphabet and hung it on the walls. She painted all sorts of fun signs and teaching tools to help the kids to be excited about learning. It wasn’t long after the classes started that she seemed to finally fit into her new surroundings.
Oh she loved each kid that walked through her doors. She became friends with the parents and loved every moment of the years she spent teaching in that little building. I can remember her not crying as much at home. Yeah, she still had the phone attached to her ear talking with my aunt all the time because she missed her, but she had lots of new lovely things to share with her now. The sadness wasn’t the same as it was before.
Mom taught many years at the little preschool. Then a few years before she passed, the church had to shut it down. My mom went to work at the local school after that. She loved the new job as well. I think she just loved teaching little minds and seeing their excitement when they learned something new. She always looked back in fondness of her time at the Moving Up Preschool, and most of my own memories were surrounded by that place.
For many years, the church used the preschool building as a storage facility for clothing and house goods for people in the community who were in need. The sweet lady who ran the outreach could be seen all over town handing out sacks of treasures for the ones who needed it. Over the years after my mom’s passing, I took many of my son’s outgrown clothing there. The walls still had those alphabet stencils she had hung on them. Her handwriting was still on the blackboard smudged in chalk. Each time I walked in, I felt greeted by her smile. I could close my eyes and hear her laughing with the kids, like her voice was somehow embedded into the walls.
Over time the church stopped taking in donations, so the building was abandoned. Several months ago, I was at the post office that is situated just to the east of the old Moving Up Preschool. I noticed workers removing the contents that had been stored inside. The next time I drove past, I saw people on ladders removing the shingles and siding. Piece by piece, the building was being taken down.
Yesterday evening, my husband and I were visiting before bed. He told me that he had driven down the road by the preschool and noticed they had finished tearing it down. I wasn’t expecting to be overwhelmed by it not being there, it’s just a building, but I found myself overcome with emotions.
I woke up crying today, mourning my mother and reliving the memories I have had with her. I know it is a good thing that the building was taken down. If I were to hang on to every physical thing that reminded me of her, I would be drowning in stuff because the only things that really have meaning are felt inside. The Father is so kind to help me hang on to those memories. I know there are many wonderful truths and joy that He is going to show me in recalling her time in that preschool. Many truths about putting off what is seen by the eye and living in the Spirit, but today there is sadness, and that is alright.
I’m thankful my mom was so blessed by those four walls. I’m thankful I still have those memories of her joy with all those sweet little kids and how teaching them showed her that she belonged in this new place.
It’s hard though.
Lord, please remind me that it’s just a building.