In the heart of downtown Staunton, Virginia, there is a green space. Four massive magnolias sit on the upper part of the yard and a giant oak tree stands at the bottom. It used to be the yard of the man who established downtown, whose name is remembered by the street that cuts through the middle of the town, Beverly. Now this yard is the known as “The Lawn” to teachers and students of Grace Christian School. The school owns this building and takes pride in its beautiful green space. Many hours every week go into maintaining the beauty of the lawn. “The Lawn” served as a meeting place for classes and for students throughout the year.
On the upper part of the lawn there are picnic tables that sit under three of the magnolias. This is my special place. It is here where I spent a majority of my free time after being dismissed from school daily around 10:30. As an upper classman, I could leave when my classes were done for the day. Most students would want to go home; I didn’t. If I could, I avoided home. Home wasn’t a terrible place, don’t think that. I have a loving family that cares about me. I just wanted to be alone. I would sit at the picnic tables and either do homework or think of literally anything other than my homework to do. Sometimes I would walk the 2 blocks to the student parking lot, drive to get something to eat, and return with my lunch to the picnic tables to enjoy it. Obviously, I would not want to walk the two blocks again and I would park my car in the teacher lot by the school (This was always a point of contention with my principal. Almost daily I would have to move my car back to the student lot, but sometimes he wouldn’t notice and I would win). People would come and go from the school. Teachers would head downtown to pick up lunch from The By&By or Cranberry’s. Parents would hurriedly walk into the school dropping off homework, lunches, or sports equipment that their child had forgot at home. Sometimes a lady would walk her dog on the front lawn, and leave the dog’s poop their (We all hated her. We had all at one point stepped in the poop and cursed the women who left it there.) You now see how easy it was to get distracted from homework in a place like this. To be honest, I never really got homework done here.
Many of my favorite memories in this place is when others from my class would join me outside. We were never allowed to climb the trees, though, that doesn’t mean we didn’t. My friend, Jeremy, once climbed the tallest magnolia and was caught by our school secretary who immediately demanded he come down. He decided to leave after this, but could not find his keys. To his dismay and our joy, we could see his keys hanging off a branch at the very top of the tree. He quickly climbed up the tree and retrieved them while the rest of us stood guard to make sure the secretary did not catch him. One time the entire senior class brought their hammocks and we strung them between the trees. These hammocks were stacked three high at some points, some were just barely off the ground. This place was constantly full of laughter and joy anytime students were in it.
On a nice spring day in April, as my friends and I were talking around the picnic tables, a large group of students disembarked from their buses parked just in front of our school to go see a play at the Blackfriars Play House, right across the street. A lady from this group, obviously a teacher, began to walk up the steps to the yard and continued inside the building. When she reemerged, she called for her students to join her on the lower part of the lawn. This infuriated me. “How the heck are they actually coming onto our property and using it?” I asked myself. I then receive a phone call from my principal, instructing me to get a trashcan from inside and set it out or the students to use after they had finished their lunch. He then informed me that the teacher had asked permission to use the lower half of the lawn and had complimented on how well it was kept. At first he was going to have to say no, because we do not usually allow other groups to use it. Though, we he noticed me at the picnic tables, he knew how much it would annoy me to have someone else using our precious lawn, so he granted them access. He was right, it did annoy me. It took everything in me to go and get the trashcan and be hospitable to them.
Even my principal recognized my love for this place. It was here where I spent most of my time. Time with friends, making memories. Now that I am graduated, I don’t have the opportunity to go to this place as much. Though, whenever I do, I go and hang up my hammock and spend my time reading. Listening to the birds chirp and the business of downtown Staunton. This place is where I have peace. This is where I want to be.