16 Feb 2011

Visiting my youth

7 Comments Personal Crap

I went back to my high school last week to speak to the kids in Play Production. Sixth period. Just like when I went there. It was a bizarre day, driving back through the old ‘hood. It’s a mere 10 miles from my house, but it feels like a whole other world. It feels like my childhood. (With a few added Taco Bells and gas stations.) Driving down the road that lead to the school, I was looking at all the parked carsĀ and thinking, “I used to park there. Then I’d walk the 1/6th of a mile to the school’s front doors, put my shit in my locker and start my day.”

I hated going to school. It makes me worry for my son because if he’s anything like me OR his father, he’s got a long road ahead of him, paved with classes he hates, awkward social behaviors, and a brain full of angry sarcasm just dying to get out.

The D Building was always my haven. I hated everything a little less when I was on that side of the campus. “D” stood for “Drama”, and there was a lot of it. Not just on stage. Imagine an episode of Glee, only there’s no cute cheerleaders. It was just us, the Drama Dorks; our hearts full of creativity and our pants full of hormones.

Walking through the drama room’s door, (now renamed for the woman who was my drama teacher), I laughed. Holy Cow, it was weird to be in that room! And yet, I truly felt like I could just sit down in one of those chairs, be a part of the class, and no one would know I was almost 40 because I could still totally get away with being 17. Right? I mean it really felt like that. I spent a few minutes chatting with the teacher, who is a fantastic girl who graduated the year before me, and was a friend and fellow performer. The fact that she’s the TEACHER now, and has been for TEN YEARS is mind boggling. She said she also feels like she could go right back to that time and place… 22 years ago.

The kids came filing in, each of them looking like an exact replica of someone I was in class with all those years ago. The prototype hasn’t changed. You can see the kid in every one of them., as well as the budding adult. They are at an age where they are brimming with ideas and feelings… Mostly pain and confusion, I’d assume. I wanted to grab every one of them and say, “BE CREATIVE NOW! THIS IS THE TIME WHEN ALL OF YOUR FEELINGS ARE RIGHT AT THE SURFACE! YOU’LL NEVER BE SO IN TOUCH WITH THAT BULLSHIT AND DRAMA AS YOU ARE NOW. SO USE IT!” I said something to that end, but not exactly that.

I also told them how horrible this business is and how they have to be prepared to trudge through endless shit to find one day of glory. But I also told them if they really want it, they can do it. And if they don’t really want it, to find another career. I made them laugh, they made me laugh. I did a couple characters from the Shakespeare monologue I had done as a senior which won me first place at a festival. They understood the importance of that day to me, because they go to the same festivals. I spoke to a few of them after class. Good kids.

I left and decided to drive to the house I grew up in. I turned on my radio and an Adam Ant song blared out of the speakers. Perfect. It felt like the 80’s. I opened my sunroof, because when I was a teenager I never drove with it closed. As I drove past all of the familiar houses, I admired how well most of them are being taken care of. I remembered baby sitting in one of the houses and skating past others. I drove up the hill to my house, made a u-turn and pulled up in front of it.

It isn’t being as well taken care of as some of the other homes, and there’s a for sale sign out front. I called the number to see how much it’s going for, but the code I punched in didn’t work. And… There was the driveway I drove up thousands of times, where I took prom pictures, played basketball, hid from my brother, and cried when my first boyfriend and I broke up. There was the front door I walked through over and over, day after day. The door my mom and dad came through when they got home from work. The door that lead into the home I lived in for all of my youth.

I actually visited it a few years back, and the owner let me look around. Most of it was unchanged, but the kitchen wall had been knocked down and an island put in. I saw the room my parents didn’t furnish until Bob and I both graduated from high school, so we could have a rehearsal space. I saw my room, my brother’s, my parents’. I saw the bathrooms, the den. So many memories.

And here I was again, staring at the bay windows my dad designed and the vines that used to be beautiful, blooming bougainvillea. It was as if the house represented my youth: Still there, but older. I waited for the tears, but none came. I gave it one last look and drove home.

It was an interesting day, to say the least. To visit familiar places, this time as this me. So much has changed, but I am still that girl that lived in that house and went to that school. I’m the girl that grew up to become a wife, a mom, a working actor (sometimes). I’m the girl who roller-skated down the hill behind that house, who walked to the strip mall to buy ice cream, who dreamt of who I would be.

I miss that girl sometimes. But I got a life much better than she ever allowed herself to dream of. It was a good visit. But I like living here. Now.

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Lisa Arch likes being a working actress... but LOVES being a Mom!
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7 Responses to “Visiting my youth”

  1. Reply Koch says:

    Love that you went back to the old house again after speaking to the kids. That part of the story’s new to me. You remember the time we did that with D? You were just about kicking off your pregnancy! Of course, you LIVED there but that house holds special memories for me, too, man. I think the first computer game I ever saw with animation was this “Star Trek” Steve, Bob and I played in Bob’s bedroom (meanwhile, I never play computer games). And of course ALL the Upstage rehearsals and meetings. SO many of those.

    I’m going to come over with my Adam Ant CDs and you’re going to tell me EXACTLY which song it was.

    Great entry, btw. So glad life’s better than you thought it was gonna be.

  2. Reply Carl Gruber says:

    This was pretty brilliant. Both the blog and the comments.

  3. Reply Christine says:

    Fabulous post. I love the way you honor who you were and who you have become. I love that you still get what high school feels like and that you respected and illuminated it for those kids. I love that you visited your old house and took a moment to experience the memories and feel into those moments while still acknowledging that your present life and home are exactly as they are meant to be.

    I myself have never revisited my old school or home. I think about them, sometimes, but I fear the reality would somehow tarnish the nostalgia for me. Although you do have me thinking of my old theaters, both in high school and college. The feel of the hollow raised stage under my character shoe clad feet, the excitement of opening night with a full house, the smell of dust in the costumes, the crackly feeling under my skin and the rush whomp of my heartbeat as I hit my first mark, how I wish I could go back an experience the purity of those moments again and know how truly special they were.

    But I took from my theater days all I need and all I want. Bill and I met at a college theater workshop. Our first interaction was a lame acting exercise that had us looking into each others eyes and repeating the sane sentence back and forth to each other with conversational intonations. I won’t share what it was, but every now and then one of us will catch the other’s eye and whisper that sentence, and instantaneously bring us both back to that darkened theater and the moment, unbeknownst at the time to us, when our lives were joined and changed forever.

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Christine, you just gave me chills. PERFECT description of the high school theater… Apparently ANY high school theater! Wow. And that part about you and Bill. Beautiful. Thank you.

  4. Reply Elizabeth says:

    this. is. lovely.

    When are the boys going to play????

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