Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nostalgia, I HATE you!

I am awash in a sea of sentiment.

Thinking about that first love, 20 (20!) years ago, makes me think of our old church building in Chino. I more or less grew up going to church in that building. I met my first love there. I am still friends with so many people who I grew up with there. I met Stephanie there, and I still have some of the ridiculous notes we passed to each other in the halls there.

I had a partner in crime, Jeff, who I met there. Oh, the times I had with Jeff. Our ward (congregation) boundaries got shifted when I was 14 or so and Jeff and I were the youth speakers in Sacrament Meeting on our first or second Sunday with the new ward. We had never met before, but we ended up passing notes (probably mocking everything in view) to each other up on the stand and by the end of it we were fast friends. Actually, for a time Jeff's family was my second family. His sister Rhonda was another great friend. Jeff ran with me and Mr. First Love. We went to church dances together, and after being chided at one for dressing "too casually" we bought formal clothes at thrift shops and went to the next dance in formal attire. That night we drove around in Jeff's parents' van and painted over the "embly" on all the local campaign signs that said "State Assembly." When the police drove by as we were getting out to hit another sign, the guys pretended they were walking me to the door of the house we had stopped at. It worked; the fuzz just drove on by.

There were so many more escapades, including an awful war of toilet papering that escalated and escalated, culminating in my house getting decimated because it had been discovered that I was a double agent. In the back of our yearbook, Rhonda published a "senior message" that included the sentence "and Colleen, come get your clothes out of my brother's backseat!" She knew full well what it sounded like, but we knew the truth and laughed and laughed.

I wrote to Jeff on his mission and we went right back to being great friends after he got back. But then he got engaged and I got dropped. I understand.

That church, that gigantic place where I went to Sunday School, met my first love, met so many beloved friends, doesn't exist anymore. The courtyard with some unknown gigantic tree that dropped messy inedible fruit on the ground every year, with cinderblock walls painted white, is long gone. When I was 16 years old, whoever is in charge of these things decided it would be cheaper to demolish the old building and build a new one instead of rehabbing. So in the spirit of civic duty, they let the fire department burn it down as a training opportunity.

Yes, they BURNED DOWN MY CHILDHOOD CHURCH. It would have been traumatic even if they had just bulldozed it, but I would occasionally make my then-boyfriend park across the street from it at night and watch it smolder. I even went inside one night and watched the embers pulse for a while. Apparently those were still the days when nobody gave much thought to security.

Places have memories. And progress rolls on. But the new building is just like so many others, soulless and mostly void of meaning for me. I have a lot of bad memories associated with the old place too, but visiting my old ward and attending services there means very little to me now. I feel even less moored, even more afloat when I think about it.


samandholly said...

I was just talking to Stew VanBuskirk about that building on Thursday!

Stephanie said...

That building was so green. I was only in that building for a year or so before they burned it down. I remember the smell of that church - a combination of must, dust and mold - kindof like a library or retirement home (without the urine). I loved the atrium with the big tree. I still think every church should have a tree somewhere in its architecture.

It's funny the things we remember!

Rachel said...

I loved that building. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are set there. Being carried to the car when the rain would flood the parking lot, playing hide and seek and hiding under the stage in those cubbies where they kept the chairs, sitting in sacrament meeting one winter morning and hearing a buzz go through the chapel that it was snowing outside. My family would stand outside our house each night of the week they burned it down and watch the smoke and cry.