(Credit: Adam Richins)
My first glimpse of Montrose School was from the bumpy back parking lot on a muggy spring evening in 2014, long before I knew that I would one day call Montrose my home.
The sunset glowed over the unfamiliar landscape where my dad and I stood together. I reached out to hold his hand, even though I knew sixth graders were supposed to be too old for that.
“You see those big buildings?” my dad asked me.
I looked around, feeling confused. My dad was supposed to be taking me to my first appointment at Medfield Dental, and I felt fairly certain that we were supposed to cross the dusty asphalt street called Janes Avenue and enter the wide-windowed building with the correct signage.
Instead, my dad had planted himself right in the middle of the parking lot, facing a different direction.
“That’s a school called Montrose,” he told me. I gazed up at the darkening silhouettes of a nest of beige buildings, and heard the distant greeting of spring peepers calling from a brook just out of view.
“We don’t have the money to send you there right now, but if you work hard during these next few years, you could get a scholarship to go there,” my dad said.
My imagination wandered inside this place called Montrose. I pictured students laughing together in long hallways, hugging stacks of fascinating books in their arms and wearing those funny green-striped skirts.
I squeezed my dad’s hand, pressing the moment into my memory and wondering if I might ever find myself inside the nest of beige buildings.
And somehow, here I am today, wondering how I might ever find the words to let go and say goodbye.
These past four years at Montrose have been an incredible blessing. And to the girl who gazed at this school for the first time that evening long ago, the greatest blessing of all has been getting to know every corner of this place, along with each and every person who makes it feel like home.
After the Class of 2021 graced the graduation stage on Miracle Field two weeks ago, I found myself lingering along the soft grass and gurgling brook of the Montrose campus, still wearing my cap and gown with my well-loved lucky red Converse shoes. The crowd had dwindled from Miracle Field, and the laughter and joyful hollers of “we did it!” and “which camera do we look at?” still rang in my ears. My body felt like it was floating after so many tight hugs of farewell, and my mind was still trying to understand everything that had just unfolded.
I found myself pulling open the tunnel door and hearing my Converse step inside the eerily quiet M&M Building. Just a few hours before, my class had gathered here to pull on our caps and gowns, choose the perfect bouquet of roses to hold, and line up together for our walk into the graduation tent. Though I swore I could still hear the echoes of excitement from my class, graduation was already over. The room was now empty.
I walked to the middle of the M&M and laid down on the hardwood floor. I took a deep breath, and gazed up at the historic ceiling above me. As any other Montrosian could tell you, the white-painted rows of splintery wood, which look quite a bit like frosted shredded wheat cereal, remain as the original ceiling from the straw hat factory that the M&M once was.
Many times over the past four years, I found myself gazing upwards at the M&M ceiling and feeling the same sense of wonder about the building’s history and the women who once worked there long before us. The way your voice and footsteps echo in that room, whether you are speaking in front of the school or just sneaking by on your way to the A&A, obliges you to look around at the high windows on either side of the room and eventually at the ceiling above you.
The M&M, by nature, reminds us about the history we are a part of.
Generations of students before me had stood in this room, leading Common Homeroom activities, kickstarting school-wide service initiatives, and passing out fresh copies of the latest Looking Glass edition. The room witnessed so many pieces of Montrose history — from hilarious Shakespeare death scene reenactments, to senior Capstone class discussions about Aristotelian friendships, to spontaneous conversations and laughs between Montrose sisters during break times and free periods.
I realized, lying there on the floor in my graduation gown and favorite sneakers, that I was a part of this place’s history, too.
Along the path of getting to know my way around Montrose, I encountered the opportunity to get to know some of the incredible leaders and friends who walked the halls of our school. They were the ones that fueled the curiosity and wonder that I experienced when I saw the Montrose campus for the first time. They listened to my reflections and aspirations, laughed at my goofy stories, and saw a leader in me before I was even fully comfortable in my own skin. They were the ones who made Montrose feel like home.
I stood up from the floor of the M&M, and began walking along the familiar hallways of our school, genuinely expecting to see a familiar face at every corner I turned. But the place was silent. Even the courtyard, perpetually filled with laughing students on mask breaks, was empty.
I walked past my favorite classrooms, where teachers never failed to open their door for me when I was feeling down, or in the mood to discuss the state of our world. For once, there were no students inside to make funny faces at, and the white boards were wiped freshly clean.
On and on, I wandered into classrooms and visited the nooks and crannies I had come to know so well in this school. As I walked, I began replaying the four years I had spent at Montrose, and realized that the leaders, mentors and friends who filled these spaces were the people who formed me as a friend and leader in our community. The hallways where I learned the names of middle schoolers and the classrooms where I learned to “say it like a warrior!” prodded me to be like the confident and friendly big sisters who once welcomed me into this school with open arms.
I pressed the posters and paint colors of each hallway and classroom into my mind, knowing that I would wish to revisit each place time and time again in my memory. This was the place where I became who I am. And though the countless individual lessons, conversations and laughs might one day fade from my mind, I knew I would remember the magic that surrounded every corner of this place.
Just as I looped back around Montrose for the last time, pushing the tunnel door open and finally ready to cross the bridge and head home, I heard someone call my name. I turned to see two sixth graders running towards me excitedly at full speed.
“Want to jump over the brook with us?” they asked, grinning widely.
I told them that I’d love to. We raced back to the brook, and after careful contemplation and a count of three, we jumped clean over the stones and stream and onto the soft grass on the other side.
This, truly, is when everything seemed to fall into place in my mind. They were the same age as the girl I once was, who gazed up at our school for the first time with fascination and wonder. My story at Montrose may have been coming to a close, but theirs was only just beginning.
As I waved goodbye to them, I looked back at the nest of buildings that seemed so familiar now. I felt a wave of gratitude wash over every part of me. I had done it. I knew every building, every classroom, every corner and crevice of the place by heart.
And though I knew that I was heading towards new horizons beyond Montrose, far beyond the floor of the M&M, the familiar classrooms, and the gurgling brook, I knew in my heart that I would always call this place home.
Maevis Fahey ‘21, Editor-in-Chief