Monday, September 22, 2014


    Only four members of the 6th grade "graduating" class of 1971 attended the Horsebrook Elementary School Reunion on Saturday the 6th of September - 2014 - but we brought EVERYONE along with us.

     They, the other kids we went to school with and the teachers we had throughout our years at Horsebrook, are always with us. They are part of us. We are all who we are now because of those experiences - that neighborhood - and that school that we all shared. Regardless of whether our memories of growing up may be good or bad, whether we remember the thrill of winning a class election or the heartbreak of being picked last for the dodgeball team, those experiences were the building blocks of our character.

    Those years, from 5 to 11 or 12, are when we learn about "Our World". When "expected behavior" becomes habit, when actions have immediate consequence and when the dance of interpersonal relationships is first awkwardly learned. From the lines we had to get into every morning out on the school's porch before the start of the school day to the dress code (which for girls - really meant "dress" code), the rules we followed - the respect we held for our parents, our school and our teachers made us a collective of individuals. Being human - we would find ways to compete and separate ourselves from one another - the kids from the north side of Grand River Avenue and those form the south, the "smart" kids and those who were challenged when asked to read aloud, the athletes from the non-athletic, and yes, even the "haves" and the "have nots" . But what some of us (if not all of us) didn't quite realize at the time was just how very fortunate we all were to live in the Horsebrook community...and with the Horsebrook family.

School - College - Marriage - Children - Work - Money

they all demand our attention and alter our focus.

We change our priorities - we discard what is not immediately needed or beneficial-   then....

we pause.

We reach the middle of our fifth decade  - when there is more behind us than ahead. When we get that opportunity to return to ourselves - when life's labels of student, spouse, parent, employee - are no longer what defines us. We are free to be that child again.  We look into the mirror and wonder when we became our parents - we ask ourselves if we led a good life - we seek answers that can only come from within. 
         We look back to that time in our lives when we were FREE. 
                                      When we were not DEFINED.
                                                         When the future was yet to BE.
A time when we were safe - when the grown ups would always be there to make sure we had enough to eat, a bed to sleep in, a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, toys and books and FUN.

"Time to get up. Eat all your cereal - finish the milk. Brush your teeth. Make your bed. Go outside and play.  Don't overstay your welcome. Come home when the street lights come on. Eat all of your vegetables.  There are starving kids in China. Clean your plate. Do the dishes. Don't talk when the News is on. Don't sit too close to the TV.  Get ready for bed.
Hit the sack!  It's a school night!!"

    We all walked to Horsebrook every school day.  We tied the laces of our gym shoes together and hung them over the back of our seats. We brought milk money from home and thrilled at receiving the Scholastic Book Club items we may have ben fortunate enough to order. We played "Seven-Up" and whatever that game was that involved walking around with an eraser on your head. We had visiting gym teachers and music teachers. At mid-day we all left. Some had only to walk through their backyard, some went to the homes of others, but most of us went HOME for lunch. We couldn't wait to be a "big kid" so we could serve on the Safety Patrol. We cleaned litter from the grounds - decorated bulletin boards - learned how to square dance and felt like the whole world was looking at us each year when we marched along Grand River Avenue for the Halloween Parade.

    No matter the season - recess at Horsebrook was AWESOME. Whether it was playing foursquare on the blacktop, kickball on the baseball diamond, making a "jampile" on a piece of cardboard so you could soar down the snow-covered hill, or exploring near the crick (the forbidden zone!)- it always ended with a collective groan when we would catch a glimpse of our teacher - up on the hill - raising her hand in the air to signal the time to line up to come back inside.

Lansing was booming. 
    The population growing to over 100,000 in the early 60's and reaching its peak of over 131,000 in 1970. Oldsmobile had three shifts and over 15,000 employees. There were 36 elementary schools in Lansing. Most mothers still didn't work outside of the home and many served as "room mothers", scout leaders, day care providers and volunteers. The fathers worked at both blue collar and white collar jobs - at the car plant, or the Lansing State Journal, or the Board of Water and Light or they were carpenters or plumbers.  And they would all be there for the Christmas Concert, or the Pancake Supper, or the Pinewood Derby. How very special if felt to return to Horsebrook at night. To go to our classrooms to prepare while our families were gathering in the gym.  They knew each other.  They were neighbors. They lived next door or down the street. They bought their meat from Gorman's and got their prescriptions filled at Martin's.  They cared for their family, their community - their school.

So you's not such a bad thing to once in a while "Live in the Past" IF you were fortunate enough to go to Horsebrook Elementary School.  It was a pretty fantastic "past" and because everything is temporary and all things change - having a "past" that makes you feel good about yourself and the world is a pretty wonderful thing.