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Listening to Yesterday: The Imagined Playground

When school is almost in session

  1. church bells
  2. quiet music
  3. imagined playground

The public school system started its new year yesterday in San Francisco. It’s another two weeks before public school starts in the East Bay, and private schools in the area are all getting going according to their own internal rhythms.

I rent a small office next to a private school that hasn’t begun its new year yet. The school is connected to a church whose bells ring every hour, ensuring that if I’m ever late for a phone meeting it’s only by a minute. When the bells ring, my brain automatically acknowledges the passing of the hour, even if it’s of no calendrical consequence. The start of the school year is of no small consequence, because I have a little kid in school. Yesterday in particular, the first day of the academic year, school was very much on my mind — new teacher, new subjects, new schedule, new rules.

The school adjacent to my office has a chaotic playground life. When school is not in session, it is a lot easier for me to listen to quiet music — which is to say, to much of the music I am predisposed to listen to. The school noise can force much of my playlist to the background. During the academic year it can sound more like a World War I trench battle than a place of education, what with the dozens upon dozens of kids yelling and playing and screaming and singing. Yesterday the church schoolyard was empty, but my knowing that our own school had begun caused a trick of the ear.

Yesterday I found myself listening for the church school noises, and even though they weren’t there, my head was at times filled with memories of last year’s recess sonics, and also with an imagined sense of what my own kid might be up to. Soon enough — in a little over a week — the church school’s year will start, and the imagined playground will give way to a real one.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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