I guess I was around fifteen. Maybe eighth grade. Back then that meant that I attended St. Albans Junior High, the old high school of my mother and father. Some of their teachers still taught there. Like Mr. Jordan, a science teacher, I think. Gordon T. Jordon, to be precise. In my mother’s time, they called him Gordon Tordon Jordon.
The old school is now a warehouse for old commercial kitchen equipment. Broken windows everywhere. Who knows what living inside. And a few ghosts from the past. Not literal ghosts, just haunting memories.
Like the first time I danced in front of people. Before I learned not to care what people thought. Bad memory.
Eating popcorn while watching a basketball game up on the mezzanine of the gym. Good memory.
Dodge ball. Crab ball. Climbing ropes. Does anybody really have a good memory of gym class?
We had a really good auditorium for its time. Like an old theater. Lots of good productions and student talent shows. Jack Lyons singing Mr. Bojangles. Good memory.
Almost getting beat up after school for mouthing off to an upper classman and being saved at the last minute by a teacher who saw the guy pull his fist back and yelled out the window just in time.
And then there was Shop Class. I was not a shop class kind of guy. In fact, I was still trying to figure out what kind of guy I was. I was dabbling in music, but was never really very good. Likewise with sports. Not super smart. Not super cool. Pretty much just another extra on the great movie set of life.
But Shop Class was required, so I spent a semester learning how to not cut off my fingers with a power saw, lessons I value to this day. Mr. Bass, one of the school’s coaches, also taught Shop Class. Scary guy. Big. Stern. Never smiled.
Steve Bailey was in my class. His family lived high on the hill in St. Albans. He was somewhat of a free spirit, but cut from a different cloth. His hair was long, all the way to his shoulders, which was not that unusual for the time, but he wore shirts with French cuffs and cuff links. Nobody did that. So there he is in Shop Class with his fancy shirts. But he could be intimidating. Nobody made fun.
At the end of the semester, we had to put all of our newly learned skills to the test and actually make something. Anything. Other guys were making cool stuff. Maybe a gun rack. Or a table. I made a box. Roughly 12” x 12” with a lid. Painted green. A plain green box. Even at the time, I was embarrassed by my lack of creativity.
That was, what, 45 years ago? The box is still in my garage.
Today, I’m in the middle of a remodeling project in the basement. Over the years, the occasional water infiltration had caused mold to grow at the bottom of a built-in bookcase and the wood paneling behind it. So I took out the bookcase. The rest of the paneling was still good and I didn’t want to rip out everything so I decided to cut off the bottom and rebuild with a new wainscot.
I drew a line on the paneling and five minutes later, the offending moldy panels were gone. A nice, clean cut.
It was satisfying. Even though it was really demolition, it felt creative. Like I was doing something positive. Something that few people would ever see. But it felt good.
I think that’s how it is with anything creative that we do. Whether anyone else appreciates it doesn’t really matter. We were born with that creative urge.
For some people, it’s masterpieces of woodworking or pottery or fantastic art or life-changing music or stories that take us to another world.
For some people, it’s children and families and making those around them feel loved and welcome.
For some people, it’s leading others to find greater truths.
And for some of us, it’s building a green box and cutting out the mold.
Not for the rewards. Not for the riches. Not for the accolades.
Just because we can.