We’ll be meeting next week at the new digs, Teri Crane, our teacher reminds us. At least, that’s the plan. Something always happens, who knows, but I expect to see you there and then, OK? Some of us shake our head, like we know what Teri is referring to. Some ask, where is it exactly? One says, new place… what? When? I’m guessing that some of the students may be missing or turning up late at next week’s creative writing class. This place, where the Senior Center has been for the last 40 years, is being abandoned, left behind. Who would not want to go to the brand-new, shiny, fully air-conditioned new digs? Society, that is you and me, generally has little patience with or tolerance for the aged.
When I first visited the Senior Center in Newhall for the first time, some three years ago, I paid little attention to its appearance. It was a beautiful spring day, I remember, in mid-March. We didn’t need cooling or heating and, besides, I had come for my first creative writing class. That absorbed a hundred percent of my interest. Like many budding retirees I wanted to learn how to write stories, my stories. When I walked out of the class that day I was on cloud nine. Writing — Teri had been clear — everyone can learn to do it. Just get started, Patrick.
But then, as time went by, and occasionally I had arrived early and entered the main building to use the restrooms, I began to get an idea of what a very busy place the center really was. Lots of people, lots of action in all the rooms I passed. But I also began to notice how worn out, how drab, how colorless the place looked. The primary color in the room assigned to our class was a faded yellow, lots of shades of yellow depending on how much the sun had bleached various areas. Yet, like an old sweater, our classroom felt comfortable. You could tell though that whoever was in charge did not have the motivation or the money or both to keep the Senior Center looking fresh and happy. As Teri kept reminding us, now don’t forget, the AC’s will only work on cold days. It felt somehow like it was being run down on purpose — until I read in The Signal that the city had been looking for a new location already for a while and that they had found the perfect location. A new place, bigger, better suited to accommodate all the stuff that was going on here.
I have not been coming here for five, let alone for 30 years like some of the regulars, so I can hardly lay claim to a deep emotional attachment to our Newhall abode. But I know in my heart that this place has a soul, the accumulated spirit of many years of many people’s emotions, ambitions, search for comfort, for fitness, or just for plain social interaction with other seniors. It’s going to take time for the new center to feel like a home to its occupants. I know it will in my case, but I will try.