Monday, as I packed up the final boxes from my classroom, my home for five years, I realized that some of the greatest sadness I was feeling throughout this process was in leaving the physical space of my classroom.
As the emotions that I’ve been fighting back began to creep up, I allowed myself to ponder why the room itself was causing me so much sorrow.
I think that perhaps, the physical spaces in our lives, the brick and mortar, the buildings, homes, and rooms that we spend our time in, are much like our cast iron skillet or wooden salad bowl that we cherish.
Those cast iron skillets and special wooden salad bowls, the ones that we intentionally never deep clean or scrub, are kept this way to deepen the taste of dishes over time. The seasonings from all the previous meals, delicious dishes, and the taste of the memories of events gone by are kept within their grooves and crevices forever. And today I realized that I believe the same is true of physical spaces we spend time in throughout our lives.
My classroom walls, even when washed this summer, or repainted in the future, will forever have a piece of my time here within them. This space, that I so lovingly called home for the past five years has played witness to some of the largest, most important moments not only in my life, but in that of numerous students.
For my students, they have seen, heard, and felt first day jitters, frustration, pain, sorrow, joy, laughter, epiphanies, brand-new learning, friendships being made, friendships ending, perseverance, and an everlasting love.
For me, these walls have seen an excited teacher setting up a brand-new, never used classroom. They have seen open houses meeting strangers who became friends, and a few who became more like family. These walls have heard true belly laughter and played witness to the joy that fourth grade students bring into my life. They have seen my frustration, endless hours, and my painstaking thought process. These walls have watched as I wept over a sick and lost father-in-law and a miscarriage the following year because this was a safe space. This classroom witnessed my tears and heard my voice tremble with equal parts excitement and fear as I told a class of fourth graders that I could no longer teach because my pregnancy had made me too sick, five weeks prior to my baby’s due date. These walls have seen me light up and beam with pride while showing pictures of my girls, and while celebrating the success of a classmate.
These walls, this brick and mortar, have seen it all. Every major life event in the past five years has played out, in some way, within this space.
That’s why it’s emotional to clean up. That’s why it’s emotional to leave. That’s why it’s hard to say goodbye to a room of inanimate objects, because it has been my space.
Deep in the paint, texture, and drywall I am certain these walls can feel. The history that this classroom has within it, from my time here, will be felt when the new occupant arrives. And next August, when 20 bright-eyed faces enter the space, it will begin to soak up even more history and store it forever in it’s walls and cherish the memories that are made within them!
Do you think that perhaps all of the spaces we spend time within are like this? They hold onto our memories and not only do they become a part of us, we become a part of them? All of those spaces, the bricks, the mortar, the walls, the paint, hold onto a piece of the past and the experiences they witnessed?
It might sound strange, but I sure hope they do. It brings me some real peace, imagining that a piece of my existence and time in the space lives on long after I leave.