On Memorial Day, the relocated 1870s one room school house was open for the afternoon to our community. It was a magical afternoon spent with three former students, neighbors, and friends, hearing stories dating back to the early 1900’s of teachers, snowball fights, school yard antics and the small details that made up Life. It was appropriate for Memorial Day. Our little cemetery on Zoar Road well-represents patriots who fought to establish and then keep our nation undivided, patriots who fought domestically and abroad for democracy and decency. They are forever woven into the history of our road, and their humanity is reflected partly in the early lives of children taught in this small school.
Memories bring us back to a moment in time. Former students, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, displayed mischievous smiles recounting pranks in and around the school. Stories of the old 4H Club meetings of the “Zoar Patriots” held in the spacious classroom. Field trips that were literally trips in the fields and forests, sometimes to collect milkweed pods sent to service members for linings in coats and bedding. Community “box dinner socials” whereat anonymously decorated boxed meals were bid upon by men hopeful for a dinner with the maker, proceeds (of course) going to support the school. Stories of snowshoeing, riding and bicycling to school. Lunches warming on the wood stove. Recess fun in the school yard. Appreciation for the peaceful setting, central on Zoar Road and overlooking the valley. What a treat it was to revisit the memories of our neighbors and friends while sitting in a place so integral to the fabric of our community.
The little school house was more than a school–it was a community anchor and point of pride. It was a place where lives launched and also came together for meetings, reunions and other community purpose. It was a proper place to remember. Reading accounts of loss yesterday underlined how remembering brings back a crystalized moment, with all of the old emotion and vulnerability. It is an important exercise. We must remember to remind ourselves that we are not lost, and that we are a community of souls just a memory away.
A former student of the school, Ethel Mae (Lee) Ingalls left her family farm on Zoar Road and went into the world to study, work and raise a family of her own. Ethel Mae wasn’t able to join us yesterday, but she was with us in spirit. Ethel’s beautiful poem, “Child Topography,” captures her girlhood memories of life on Zoar Road. I will leave you with this wisp of life remembered–life near the doorstep of a loved schoolhouse:
Here is where I climbed Steeply tilted hillsides Gnarled apple trees Fences of stone Nearly vertical stairs To my bedroom Ladders to the haymow Or up the silo chute
Here is where I walked Through grasshoppers Pregnant corn Black-eyed susans Dust powder dry Dark ferny woods Muddy ooze Rock slippery streams
Learning the earth With my feet And the life With my sinews.
Here I Carried Pails of warm fragrant milk Soft downy newborn pigs Acrid fertilizer Bales of hay Buckets of gathered eggs Still smelling of the nest
Here I Pulled The long hay rope back Weeds from the garden rows My body into my tree Milk-filled tits The emptied wagon rack Feathers from scalded hens
Here I Pushed Corn stalks into the cutter Needles through garment hems My brother in his wagon The wet mop Across the kitchen floor The calves into their pens
Learning the earth With my feet Learning life With my sinews.
Here is where I search Time eroded landmarks Sun shimmered days Fields gone fallow Faint flitting echoes Unfamiliar Familiar places.
Here is where I learn life With my heart.
– Ethel L. Ingalls 1998