In 1981, I attended Ebenezer Avenue Elementary in Rock Hill, S.C. The school has since gotten some kind of rehab and an addition, but when I was there, it was one of those old, looming but out-of-proportion school buildings with two-story high windows that could only be opened and closed with a long metal pole because no one could reach the lock otherwise.
I can remember my first day of school there in fifth grade. Everything was so big and bright and clean; there were new and unusual sounds as the century-old hardwood floor creaked under my feet. There were unique smells that are only found in old buildings with new paint.
On my last day of school at Ebenezer Avenue a year later, I remember thinking how old and tired the building looked. It was no longer new in my mind, and in my memory at least, the first day was much brighter than the last.
I thought about that memory earlier today as I walked from Dupont Circle to my office at Farragut Square. For a split second, while my mind was preoccupied with something, I had another one of those amazing split-second moments of pure and blissful mindfulness where I was at once aware of everything around me.
For that tiny sliver of a second when I was completely present in the moment, everything was big and bright and clean; I heard the sounds of car tires rolling over the asphalt as if it were for the first time. I noticed the smell of the cement and a slight whiff of cleaning solution that a worker was using to clean the entrance to The Quincy hotel on L Street.
It was the same feeling you experience when you visit another city on vacation and you walk out the front door of the hotel for the first time in the morning to see a new downtown.
It was my first day at Ebenezer Avenue all over again, only this time, it was a route I’ve walked dozens of times before. Everything that is old was new again. But only for the briefest of time.