I drove past my old elementary school the other day. To see what it looks like now that it’s gone. To bid a final adieu.
It turned out that demolition was still in progress.
The eastern end of the Metro Toronto School for the Deaf was all but obliterated. A façade of first-floor windows, functioning as a sort of barrier to make it seem like there was still something there, remained.
The middle of the school – the principal’s office (and what I’ve been reminded was the beautiful wood core) – was intact. I guess that’ll be the last to go.
A huge bulldozer was hard at work tearing down the western end of Davisville Junior Public School, a.k.a. my senior kindergarten class and the library.
“It looks like a real claw, doesn’t it?” I said to a passerby. “Who knew that roof was made of steel?”
“An architectural gem,” she replied.
On the north side of Millwood, an intense man stood behind a massive SLR camera.
Media? I wonder. (Ha – worn-out assumptions! Media in 2019!?)
“My school,” he said in a raspy voice, pointing to the end of the school that was already gone.
“My school!” I said, pointing to the part being demolished.
We were Davisville Junior Public School / Metro Toronto School for the Deaf alumni, standing side by side on a frigid winter afternoon, watching our school go down.
“1962,” said the man, tracing the numbers in the air.
“1964,” I smiled, writing out my year of birth.
An electrical current zapped between us. His school, my school. I wanted to hug him. I felt as though, maybe, he wanted to hug me. The dust and debris swirled around.
The school’s been leaking, Christopher (the man on the street) explained, wiggling his fingers and pointing to the roof.
I suddenly realized the dates didn’t line up. (Brain-injury recovery milestone: I was fact-checking in real time!) I thought the school opened in 1969, but Christopher said 1962. Did I assume wrongly that 1962 was his birth year?
I asked Christopher his age.
“65,” he replied.
So, Davisville P.S. opened its doors in 1962. Christopher was 65.
“Something-something… bricks,” said Christopher, tracing out the letters B-R-I-C-K-S in the air.
I love learning new languages, and I work hard at remembering basic greetings to help deepen connections with people whose language I don’t know. But I was suddenly aware that seven years at Davisville P.S. had left me with zero skills in the language next door.
I have lots of memories from Davisville: Grade six dances with 20 replays of the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night.” Mr. N. plastering the walls with Wintario numbers for the teachers’ pool. Scoring a Nancy Drew mystery because I helped set up the Fun Fair…
But I have no memories of the kids with whom we shared a schoolyard.
“There are bricks for the taking,” explained Christopher. When someone approaches, we’ll holler, he said.
An orange-vested demolition worker approached. I hollered.
“Excuse me! Christopher and I both attended this school! Would it be possible for us to have some bricks?”
During a recent Marie Kondo purge of my kitchen, I rediscovered a salt-stained brick from an island in the Red Sea. That brick’s way more impressive.
But this brick’s special because it’s about finding something where there was ostensibly nothing.
By 2009, there were only eight students left at the Metro Toronto School for the Deaf. That was partly because of the increased use of cochlear implants and partly because of deaf mainstreaming in hearing schools.
The Davisville P.S. / Toronto School for the Deaf side-by-side experiment doesn’t happen much anymore. My youngest daughter, for example, has been taking notes for a hearing-impaired classmate for the past two years. Occasionally they do lunch.
Christopher and I were saying goodbye to the bricks and mortar of our childhood as much as to a period in education history.
Most importantly, we got to say hello.
I can’t but help wonder, 40 years down the road, what all will have changed and advanced with the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.