North Pointe Elementary School in Southgate is closing its doors on June 13th after 43 years. I went to North Pointe from kindergarten through sixth grade. When I talk about my past as a victim of bullying, that's the place where the bulk of it (though perhaps not the worst of it, depending on how you look at it) happened. It was the place where I changed from a happy and hopeful child into a timid and insecure pre-teen. That timespan that you spend in school can make or break you if you are not prepared for it. It broke me. My life is richer for all the things that I learned and I am now confident enough to shoo out the bullies in my life even when I find them lurking in my own family (see previous posts!). Finding your confidence doesn't stop the universe from testing it. Some tests are more painful than others. Maybe I am better but I was permanently changed by the things that happened to me there. If I'd never gone there, I'd be a very different person than I am now. A more naturally confident one instead of having developed a thick skin out of necessity.
Now, on the other hand, North Pointe is also the place where some very good things happened. It's where I met my partner, Lisa. We're approaching 17 years together and something like 23 years of friendship overall. It's the place where I was fortunate to have a few of the best teachers in the world, particularly Mrs. Ronco and Mrs. Johnson, as well as Mrs. Morin and Mrs. Lilly. It's the place where I skipped gym to work in the library with Mrs. McClements. I wish those memories were stronger and clearer than they are. What I'd give for a little more detail and clearly defined edges on those memories! The years have a way of blurring things. But those are the teachers who reached out and befriended me and made me feel less alone in a sea of supposed peers who made me into such an outcast.
So, you see, there are both good and bad memories tucked between those walls at North Pointe. Seven years of my life, and perhaps the ones that shaped me the most. The way I feel about North Pointe is probably the way that most people feel about their high school. Since I left for homeschooling just before tenth grade, I don't have that. I was an old soul in a kid's body there at North Pointe, struggling to stay afloat and losing my own identity as the years went by. Yet I found moments of peace. I found people who supported me even if they didn't have the power to save me. I lost much of who I was but I gained the kind of strength that I'd need to face everything that came next. Though I used to wish for North Pointe to close when I was a student there, now that it is, it's bittersweet.
I feel like there's a part of my soul that will finally be at rest once those doors close for the last time, but at the same time, I'm very sad about it all. I adored that building. I'm a lover of architecture and even as early as second grade I would look at the map of the school and admire the way it was designed. The office is there when you walk in, with the computer room/science lab to your left and the gym/lunch room to the left of that. Keep going down that hall and you'll find the kindergarten room and the principal's office. Continuing down that hallway that wraps around the building, you'll come to the main part of the school, which is designed like a wheel, with the classrooms going clockwise around the center library, in order from first grade to sixth. I don't know how things are now, but this is how it was when we were there. When I visited other schools, the layouts always seemed chaotic and confusing. Like it or not, North Pointe was home. The kids might not have liked me, but I loved that building and I still do.
Now North Pointe is finally closing its doors and the frenzied energy of a school that has filled its walls since it opened in 1970 will tone down into a permanent summer vacation. I won't have to worry that more kids like me are being abused and bullied behind those doors. Maybe it will reopen as something else, but not likely as an elementary school. I like the idea of it becoming something else without the potential of more damaged youth, but I really hope it won't be torn down. If I had the funds, I'd turn it into a school for the creative arts. I don't know how healthy it would be for me to be physically involved in it and spending time in that space, but having a hand in turning it into something more positive would definitely be good for my heart. I'm not in the position to do that, but good intentions have to count for something. And I definitely always had those when it came to this school.
I'd constantly count the years until graduation, not knowing that I'd really escape much sooner. Well, 20 years have passed since our sixth grade graduation. I'm further away from it now, time wise, to the point that it shouldn't even be in the rear view mirror. But it is. North Pointe is as much a part of me as I was a part of it. I have to write these words – have to memorialize this space that has played such a large role in my life. It was not a safe place for a sensitive and creative soul, but it was the place where that soul was destined to meet with some gritty obstacles and to become what it is today. I say goodbye with gratitude for all of it. Farewell, North Pointe.