June 11, 2017
Many years ago I took refuge in Garden Grove, California. On the run. It was the death of a young man that helped me find safe haven. Hyperbole? Well, a little.. but how often to you get to use the word 'hyperbole' with the exception of the dark days we now face in the United States?
But, that's another issue.
This room has changed a bit on the outside but it is, indeed the place where I taught my first class in the magical arts of Theatre. I can still see some of the kids who tolerated my being very new and helped me survive. Being on the run can take a lot out of a guy. E5 is now called by some other designation, but it'll always be 'E5' to me.
Yesterday, I returned to school and found it a bit changed. The highlight of the day was walking back into the cafeteria where my students and I often did our shows. It was not easy coordinating with the cranky old plant supervisor, Art Murphy. Anything that a teacher did that disturbed his routine was a nuisance and he made no bones about being annoyed. It was HIS campus and it was all he could do to tolerate the teachers, let alone those pesky students! I wandered to a table spread out with memorabilia. A woman with white hair was perusing some artwork made from gourds.. or were they ceramics? I teased a student who was spending a lot of time looking at them because a couple of the pieces had lids that fit only one way.. like the top of a Jack o' Lantern.. I called them 'aptitude tests.' She didn't believe me!
The woman and I chatted briefly.. she had graduated from this school. I taught here a couple of years after she had graduated. I then noted that her name was familiar to me. She was the older sister of one of my most loyal students! I was suddenly completely overtaken with emotion. Her sister died of cancer many years ago, but the feeling of the loss of this special student overwhelmed me and the moment of pure emotion was incredible. Hyperbole again? .. not if we take 'incredible' to mean overwhelmingly deep and special.. it was that sort of moment. And, for a bit we stood and wept together ... mourning again, the loss of this girl whom I will always remember because of her loyalty to the Theatre program and to me.
Wandering the campus and seeing the camps of former students was pure nostalgia. I walked the halls and remembered a kid who had an asthma attack coincidentally as I was driving my VW bus down the hallway actually on the campus after hours. He just fell down in front of the bus! He lived.
After my first year our drama room was moved to the opposite end of the campus where we created a very makeshift theater.
The room I always wanted, a large workshop space at the south end of the campus was denied to us, probably because the administration really had no interest in helping the program grow. Politics? I remember the principal asking me one day in a little walking chat, "Mr. Sheehan. Are you going to be one of the students or one of the faculty?" Had I been more mature, I might have been able to respond, "I didn't know we were taking sides. I just want to be a part of good education." At the age of 26, it didn't occur to me to say that.
Garden Grove has changed considerably over the years. We all have. My brief teaching experience literally saved my life. I want to find out the name of the teacher who died ... whose place I took. I want to send a thought into the Universe that I am grateful.
The trees next to the "H" building are now huge. My kids and I made a movie based on Dr. Seuss's Horton Hatches the Egg. Mary Hamm played Maizie, the lazy bird, sitting in one of those trees. Linda Tyler, Bonnie Palmer and Hope Friedman played the elephant hunters. Barry Reddin played Horton and I got to play the elephant bird.
Memories help us. A student has just given me the teacher's name who preceded my time at school. Joseph Christensen. If you know anything about him, please let me know.
June 11, 2017