Memories can wait

By A.J. Calabrese

About 30 feet past Carlthorp School in Santa Monica, if you’re driving east on San Vicente, the left lane “ends ahead.” This sign must be a relatively new addition, because when I was still a student at Carlthorp and passed this particular stretch of San Vicente every afternoon the left lane never ended ahead. I’d be in the passenger seat of the car,  regaling my mom with tiny details about my day: how many games I won in handball, how many times I was forced to type the letter ‘p’ in computer class, how the music teacher had yelled at my friends for changing the words in Christmas songs to include Batman references and the word ‘fart,’ all while driving in the left lane that didn’t end until we hit Wilshire, where we’d make a left turn and continue on our way home.

Granted, I hadn’t driven on that particular stretch of San Vicente since graduating 6th grade. I didn’t really have any reason to, and passing by Carlthorp since had always made my stomach tighten anyway; it was like driving past an old girlfriend’s house, or seeing a friend who you know you owe money to even though he may not remember. I knew that it would have been arrogant to assume that nothing had changed at all since I graduated, but seeing that grayish sign whiz by and the white diagonal arrows painted on the road flicker and tell me to merge right made me feel like I’d been stripped of something, like the correctness of my memories. The addition of this rudimentary street sign had completely altered reality from what my memories had indicated. Eight years ago, my mom never had to worry about merging right while driving me home from school. She never had to break her concentration on my daily stories to read the sign and turn on the turn signal. What if I was still at Carlthorp today? Would my mom still have been able to devote her full attention to my stories with this extra amount of brainwork thrown in? The idea of her not being able to terrified me.

That’s why I’m going to save reminiscing about my time at Harvard-Westlake. As an elementary school graduate, I’ve found it was the little things that stuck with me, that come rushing back without any effort on my part to remember them. Those kinds of memories are the most important. Seeing the sign on San Vicente seemed to spark an automatic roll of memories, like chains of flashing images, that were so spontaneous I couldn’t have done anything in my power to stop them, and when they were gone it was like I’d snapped out of a deep sleep. But then I got home and processed it all, and realized how glad I was that that sign was there. It made me feel I had been a part of history, a part of something that wasn’t there anymore, at least for that particular part of the street. I felt like I was there: I was there when you didn’t have to merge, when it was just a little bit less complicated on San Vicente Boulevard. I plan to have similar sentiments about Coldwater as a high school graduate, but these things, like all good things, take time.

I guess I haven’t had enough time to reflect on Harvard Westlake to remember any of the tiny details yet. But when I do, I’ll make sure to let you know.