The past couple of days have been full of memories and reminders, some wonderfully funny and uplifting, others sad and a bit depressing. The end of an era can do that. Yesterday, an important part of my and my children’s history disappeared in the space of an hour or so. The community lost a real gem some time back; this was simply the final blow.
When my older son was a toddler, I went in search of a preschool that would accept a very precocious two-year-old. I had lived in town less than two years and hadn’t really gotten out and about much, except to go to work, the daycare or the grocery. I’d driven by the JCC frequently, but had never stopped in. A yard sign announced openings for preschool, so I stopped in.
The executive director was very cordial and invited me to take a look around. As I entered the “big room” where many of the activities took place, I noticed two kitchens at the back. Before I had gotten far into the room, a lively, older, buxom woman stepped out from one of the kitchens and approached me with outstretched arms. She introduced herself and wrapped me in a warm, loving embrace. She showed me around, and then, as I was leaving, I mentioned that I loved to cook, and told her to call me if she ever needed help in the kitchen. She did, and that is how I found “my other mother,” MOM.
Both of my boys attended K’Ton Ton preschool at the JCC, and during summers, they went to Camp Kehilah during weekdays. On weekends, the family spent time at the pool, swimming, playing and enjoying snacks from the concession stand. Once they were too old for the baby-sitter, but too young to go home alone, the boys went to before-and-after-school care. As they got older, they became counselors in the camp. We attended parties and other community events there, and for a time, I served as vice-president of the managing committee. It’s safe to say that my boys’ childhood was, in many ways, defined by their years at the JCC.
When the board voted to sell the building and grounds several years back, many of us were terribly disappointed. Opened in the 1950s, the JCC was a true gem. The swimming pool with its large deck, once a place of joy and great fun, became a parking lot, filled in with cement. Briefly inhabited by a church, the JCC stood vacant for several more years.
Last week, the realization dawned that the building had been prepared for demolition, so when my older son drove by yesterday, he felt compelled to stop and take a look. Later in the evening, when he drove by again, the destruction of the street-level floor was complete, the exposed lower level ready for the wrecking ball. He took pictures and managed to retrieve a couple of “souvenirs.” At midnight, he sent a text, and then called. Both the boys are dismayed by the fate of the place where we, and especially they, had created so many wonderful memories. With great sadness, I acknowledge that times change and we must let go, but I don’t have to be happy about it.
So many wonderful memories of happy times…so much sadness that such a grand old presence now lives only in our memories.