This is a reprint of a paper that I did in English 150H back in 2005, which recalls a my family’s trip to Lincoln when we lived in Fort Dodge. It was for Mom’s 20th high school reunion.
The idea of this paper was to throw a lot of details into it in order to make a story. I think I may have overdone the details 🙂
My youthful eight-year-old face utilized my characteristic eyeglasses to look up at the majestic castle. It stretched at least one-by-two city blocks, with an oblique shape. This castle was the façade of Lincoln Southeast High School, where Mom graduated in 1976. I thought, “Another trip to Nebraska from Fort Dodge!” At this point in 1996, we had already visited Lincoln at least three other times. Unbeknownst to Casey, Molly, Levi, and me, Mom and Dad intended these trips as house-scouting missions! This subtly created an augury of two months later.
Dad drove us to Lincoln on a Friday night in late June of 1996. He had a strong build and wore glasses. Very caring, sometimes his caring showed through his seeming anger. The trip took four hours, but it seemed less than that. The skies began to darken and I feared for what might happen, because starting from fourteen years ago [this is from the perspective of 2005, so from 1991], the weather fascinated me to an obsessive degree. However, severe weather, and even just blasé thunderstorms, scared the bejeebies out of me!
I slept on the road, because I was bored by not being able to see anything in the dark. My twin sisters, Casey and Molly, squabbled en route. They were both seven years old at the time, and often went through sibling rivalry. Long, black hair made them similar, but their builds contrasted. My brother, Levi, slept. He was five at the time and blissfully oblivious. He and Molly had burly figures, contrary to Casey’s and my slim bodies.
Late that evening, we arrived at Gramma Lea’s and Papa’s house, which felt like a mansion. We chatted and watched TV in the large living room with the incomprehensibly-high ceiling. Taking a right from the TV in the cupboard, I walked into the kitchen that always carries Gramma Lea’s cooking full of love (and the aroma and taste of bacon that I could only eat here each morning.) Gramma Lea wore glasses and had a somewhat-wrinkly face. She stood a little taller ten years ago [perspective of 2005].
Mom made us go upstairs to get ready for bed. She had her hair curled and did not act forcefully. After brushing my teeth, I entered the guest room that resembles a suite in an upper-class hotel. In the suite, a king-size bed lies to the left of the door, and then a roll-out couch appears straight ahead from the door. Across from the king-size bed, I saw the dresser with sixteen drawers, and a lamp atop with a parking meter’s red (not yellow) “VIOLATION” flag. Two closets appear in this room, one to the left of the bed, and then one next to the deck door, across from the roll-out couch. Both closets have slanted ceilings. Across from the king-size bed, French doors lead out to the balcony overlooking the great room. It reminded me of the verdant atria in Embassy Suites, minus the trees. I always feel an excited vertigo with balconies. The window of this suite, next to the roll-out couch, gives a marvelous view of Firethorn Golf Course’s eighteenth green. I had just taken up golf, and I later found out that Firethorn is an elite course.
That evening, those dark clouds brought rain and thunderstorms. Each lightning bolt startled me, and then each thunderclap elicited my scream. I slept on the floor that evening in a sleeping bag, between the bed and the balcony doors. Mom and Dad got the king-size bed, and Casey and Molly got the roll-out couch. I repeatedly read the issues of Boys Life and Nintendo Power I had brought with me. I always used to read magazines front-to-cover again and again to satisfy my need for repetition. I eventually managed to fall asleep after tiring myself from reading and desensitizing myself to the storm. Dad’s snoring didn’t wake me, luckily.
The next morning, Gramma Lea cooked the bacon that fully satisfied me. She really knows how to whet her family’s appetites! I read the Lincoln Journal Star, and Gramma Lea commented, “I like how you’re reading the paper!” I didn’t find any interesting news, though. We left the house for Southeast at about 10:30. The thunderstorm had abated for a very nice, sunny day. The temperature was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the sunlight shined intensely and the humidity peaked near saturation. We parked in “A” Lot, on the northeast corner of campus. Nearby, I saw the entrance to the John Prasch Activities Center under an overhang with large lights. Seeing the sign for the school with the knight’s helmet at the entrance to the parking lot, I thought that we would enter here. Mom retorted, “This isn’t the main entrance. We have to walk around,” and then Casey, Molly, Levi, and I simultaneously groaned, “Why do we have to walk more?” We walked down the sidewalk with the steep hill on Van Dorn Street, taking a left onto 37th Street, and then walking along the bottom of the sidewalk, looking up in awe at the edifice. I only saw bricks and then a glass window above a series of locked doors, but it intrigued me anyway. I saw the semi-circular driveway typical of high-school entrances, and thought, “Finally! We’re here!”
I eyed six unsightly portable buildings that I had never seen in school settings back in Fort Dodge, and balloons filled my field of vision. Papa dressed up as a clown near the entrance to the marvelous school, making buttons for everyone. Despite his age, he had the heart of a child. His costume stood out with red, yellow, blue, and white, and his face had white paint and he wore a red nose. He covered his bald head with a red top hat. I exclaimed, “Papa!” and embraced him. Also, he blew up balloon dogs for the kids, always a favorite for us.
As we approached the gate, I overheard a lady, probably in her late thirties, likely a 1976 LSE graduate, “Noah is very well-behaved.” This immediately caught my attention, because I never knew any other people named Noah from Fort Dodge. It turns out that she had a two-year-old named Noah as well! This astounded me, and I shouted, “Mom! There’s someone else named Noah here!” Unfortunately, an age of two proves too young to speak coherently. Consequently I did not get to know him, and I don’t think that I have seen him since.
We entered the portal below the welcoming banner, and the internal conditions of the castle immediately registered. I whined, “It’s too warm in here!” because LSE lacked air conditioning (and still does [as of 2005, but the school has renovated and added A/C]). Of course, that did give it more of a castle-like essence, as air conditioning didn’t exist in the Medieval age. We turned left into the auditorium against the lobby’s brick walls. It resembled the auditorium at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, only it looked more run-down. I saw aisles with steep slopes and dots on the floor, and a mural on the west wall. It looked like “O C C L.”
When I first saw it, I thought that it looked like just a random symbolism which I couldn’t comprehend. After reading the inscription, I understood that the shapes represented seeds growing from the darkness. Now that I reflect on this event, the darkness of the first seed (the part that I interpreted as an “O”) appears representative of my childhood struggles with autism!
EDIT: The photo had a formatting problem, but because I think it’s funny to have that, I leave the error message in as well as the correct image.
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The Student Council of 1976 erected the mural. Mom told me, “This auditorium is the same as when I was here,” which I couldn’t comprehend. I don’t remember the presentation well, because I fidgeted the whole time, the girls chatted, and I think that Levi cried or otherwise complained. However, I do seem to recall hearing the fight song being played at some point, and if that proves more than merely a constructed memory, it truly foreshadows what I would come to do in six years, which now seems like no time at all.
After the presentation, we toured the school, and Mom led us. From the auditorium, we took a slope down to a corridor with gyms, offices, and yellow lockers. This hall seemed to drag on forever. I walked along, watching the alumni and their families walk by. I walked with an unusual silence, and at the turn of the hall, I immediately a different colored floor. It had a similar color to the red of the previous floor, but much brighter. Mom explained, “This wasn’t around when I was at this school [the Prasch addition was finished in 1985].” Casey, Molly, and Levi said nothing. In the hallway with the brighter tiles, I saw plaques of the athletic hall of fame. At the end of the hallway, it led to a left turn, where I saw my epitome of the tour.
In this long hallway, plaques, trophies, and banners attest to Southeast’s strong athletic traditions, with the golden ceiling bars intertwined across the length, accolades everywhere, and just that look of a medieval gallery. As soon as I saw the end, a silver knight statue entered my line of sight, and I couldn’t say anything, because it struck awe into my thoughts. Walking toward the statue seemed to take forever, as if I experienced a fateful encounter. All other stimuli immediately fled my memory, as this took primary salience.
This valiant knight sits on his steed, equipped in silver armor with a mighty sword, attesting to the power of LSE’s athletic program. His height appeals to tradition and chivalry in Southeast’s history. When I reached the statue, I grumbled, because the ropes for the maze-like lines blocked me off. However, my less-than-four-foot body could have easily passed underneath the barrier. Of course, I resisted the temptation; Dad saw my intention and warned, “Don’t even think about it.” I didn’t hear anything from it back then, but I could swear that if I listened to it now, I could hear the Southeast fight song, as now that I have graduated from LSE, the school has become a holy ground to me.
This knight fascinated me and, unbeknownst to me then, summoned me to train as a Knight. During my youth, chivalry, medieval times, and knights intrigued me. I particularly had an affinity for The Sword in the Stone, due to its cartoon nature, and also integration of King Arthur’s legend.
In the rest of the LSE building, I remember the old walls that looked out of shape, and the new wings that created an anachronism with the rest of the building. I didn’t understand additions to buildings, because I had never seen it happen or heard of it before. So I asked uncertainly, “Why is this building new in places and old in others?” Mom explained, “The Lincoln schools have problems with overcrowding, so they need more room.” Even this straightforward explanation befuddled me, and I also had no idea that the portables acted much like the additions.
However, maybe I liked the old feel to it. It gives an aura of medieval spirit in the Southeast building, and it shows how long Mom was out of high school (but I refuse to call her old). Adventure should appreciate history and advances in buildings, and in today’s age, I would like to travel to England to fulfill my vision of walking through a castle from the Middle Ages. It would show my true Knighthood!
We returned to Gramma Lea’s and Papa’s house, and Mom and Dad went off, leaving us at the house. They engaged in house-searching, but Mom and Dad ducked our inquiries, “We just had to go do our stuff.” During the downtime, I watched The Sword in the Stone. I rewound the part where the Wart gets transformed into a squirrel about fifteen times. That just made me laugh in that point in time! Then, that night, Papa invited us to his magic show.
Papa’s magic shows highlighted any Lincoln trip. Papa forbade our entrance to the basement, unless he held a magic show at that time. The “Fun-Cam” became my favorite act. Papa instructed, “Say cheese!” When he hit the shutter, the “camera” shot out water and plastic snakes and other confetti-type things. The snake, though, sent Mom running out of the studio, screaming. She has an extreme fear of snakes! The tricks with ropes and playing cards also entertained me.
This experience in Lincoln preluded another visitation to Omaha in mid-July to go to Dad’s high school reunion at Omaha Central. A few years ago, Mom disclosed, “YOU were the reason that we moved to Lincoln. The special education in Fort Dodge didn’t accommodate your situation well.” The trauma, excitement, and other emotions hit on a muggy summer evening in Fort Dodge. We had finished our routine family bike ride, and Mom broke the news: “We are moving to Lincoln in a few weeks!” I had made so many friends in Fort Dodge and learned so much that I feared moving and losing EVERYTHING. I cried inconsolably in my room for quite some time that night. Mom had to reassure me, “You can still stay in contact with your friends here!”, which I didn’t think about, because the news of our impending move stunned me, preventing my logic. Obviously, radical change challenges me.
Looking back on this experience, I see that the imminent move had several cues. Though it is just a coincidence and a device used in the arts, I can sometimes believe in weather-induced premonitions. The stormy weather followed by the clear skies foreshadowed my difficulties adjusting during my first year or so here in Lincoln. As the clouds dissipate, prosperity reigns as I learn more than before and just enjoy myself. The mural also planted a seed for when we moved to Lincoln. This weekend, indeed, led to a chivalrous invitation to join the ranks of the Knights six years later!
1Here is the text of the mural’s description:
It begins with a line and a shape. They are both dark, the line…represents the past. The shape represents the seed…dark and shriveled. This also represents hope and trust or an investment. When you are a student in high school and have teachers, take courses and get involved in activities which at the time seem useless and even dumb…you are trusting, filling yourself up to the potential you will some day utilize.
Imagine the early settlers in Nebraska, a desert land of grass, even after much hardship the farmers continued to plant the shriveled seeds. Waiting, trusting, hoping. Today he continues to hope…compared to the desert of the past, Nebraska is a garden. The tapered line on the right hand side is green and it represents the present and future. The mural has four large shapes which could represent the four seasons. The first is dark, the seed under the ground, the desert landscape. The second opens up, the seed germinates, the shape raises and turns. The third opens some more and the fourth is release, new seeds, harvest, joy celebration, praise, affirmation, hope restored, freedom, open new horizons, dividends, fulfillment, trust renewed, the alumni who return and remember the dried seeds.
Trust and hope, it begins here at Southeast. Your school colors say it. It begins with black and ends with gold. The materials for the mural are wood, ceramic, formica and metal. The details are subtle and readable up close.
(Source for the mural’s description: http://lse.lps.org/notes/history.html or the LSE auditorium)
Today is the sixteenth day of M.A.P.L.E. That makes two weeks and two days.