Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse

None of my generation went to school there, neither did my parents’, but my grandmother did and who knows how many others of our Porter and Stauffer ancestral extended families. By the time I came along, it was no longer used as a schoolhouse, but it was still standing. We have a nice picture of it from a photo book of my grandparents’—from the days before “I came along.” Earlier than that, though, is the picture of the school children with my grandmother Fern (then Porter), age six or seven, labeled on the front row. (When did our culture decide on a change from sober pictures to smiling ones?)

In 1992 when we made our first family-history, or ancestor, tour, one of our stops was at the school. It was weathered, the bell was gone, and lush vines were enjoying a happy life on the outer walls, even across half the front door. We peeked in the windows but couldn’t see much. We had in our group that day three school teachers of today’s generations—daughter-in-law Ginger, daughter LynĂ©e, and myself, so we had our picture taken sitting on what was left of the front stoop.

As we drove away down Truman Road, we didn’t know it was the last time we would see the school standing.

The next time we were in Michigan, we drove by—and stared. The school was gone—almost. The only thing left was the chimney. Of course we had to take a picture of it. We learned later that it had burned down, and our hearts said a fond farewell.

But that wasn’t the end of our adventures with that old schoolhouse. When we went back on another “ancestor trip” in 2007, we had trouble identifying the spot where the school had been because even the chimney was gone. The site was surprisingly overgrown. But surely the chimney might still be there, we reasoned, right where it fell. So my sister, my nephew, and I went tromping through the undergrowth in search of it—and there it was, all stretched on the ground and overgrown.

Grandma (little Fern in the picture) has been gone almost sixty years now. It is mostly from her side of the family that we have such a rich ancestral heritage. How I would love to spend an afternoon with her, sharing her past and my present. I would ask her how long she attended the school—come to think of it, I’ve never heard what she did for high school. I would ask her how she got to and from school in the early days, especially on icy Michigan winter days. With her born in 1894, I’m guessing cars weren’t common for rural farm people until she was almost grown.

For my turn, I would tell her about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who love the Lord, about the intense struggles some of them are dealing with, and how I’m sure some of the strength of the faith that sustains them had its roots in her and Grandpa. What should I describe to her that would leave her shaking her head? Computers? Cell phones? Moon landing? No. I see no reason to mention those things. She had a rich life in her time. I’m not going to suggest she missed out on something just because I have it and she didn't.

Except maybe air conditioning...? Surely am thankful for that these days.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Lovely story, Esther! So rich! These are family tresures, for sure. Thanks for sharing them.