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A ‘lifers’ perspective: my 16 years at Northlake

Lifer+Thomas+Morton+dresses+up+for+an+event+during+his+early+days+at+Northlake.
Lifer Thomas Morton dresses up for an event during his early days at Northlake.

Lifer Thomas Morton dresses up for an event during his early days at Northlake.

Lifer Thomas Morton dresses up for an event during his early days at Northlake.

Thomas Morton, Staff Reporter and Web Master

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As we celebrated Northlake Christian’s 40th anniversary this 2017-2018 school year, I can’t help but remember when I first stepped onto this campus. I was a child then, barely more than two. You don’t know much at that age, a smell there, a glimpse or sliver of memory here, but I remember everyone who experienced it with me. Many of the people who I loved then are gone now, and that is why I cling to those who remember, and to those who are still here. Those who remain, “lifers” as they’re called, are the only proof I have that the past has happened. The trailers I spent my pre-kindergarten years in have long since been demolished or disassembled. I cling to the past because it makes me appreciate the present.

I can’t detail my life in words, but I can spend time thinking about what I still remember. This is a shared experience, from my mind into yours: a chance to share what I’ve experienced before I leave for college.

Thomas Morton (back right) attends his senior prom with fellow lifers and friends.

I remember sitting in the back of a classroom, a divider between me and the circular carpet which dominated the rest of the room. I was playing with blocks or some other toy, and I remember fellow lifer Dale Dufrene coming up to me, and we played together. It is my first memory of playing with someone else. Our days at school were spent traversing the different trailers and switching teachers, singing songs, and learning animals and colors – all the things good children learn.

Much of my childhood is blurred together into one amorphous blob of feeling, but I can usually distinguish parts of it. Sometimes I have no choice, smell or feeling could throw me back violently into the carefree times of Mrs. Connie or Mrs. Robin’s class, where there was no worry about the future or the past and the present was just an existence.

I remember Abigail McLain holding up a drawing to my face. It didn’t matter what was on the paper held precariously too close to my head, that was an offering of friendship, and one of my first. Our class was a family, one that could never have been separated. There was no bullying or hate; we just loved each other because why wouldn’t we? You love your sibling unapologetically, why not your classmate?

I remember her, and Mimi, and me, we were one big crew. We had gymnastics together in Mrs. Tammy’s classroom after school. She’d set up little cones, and we’d jump from one to the next; I don’t think I ever learned any gymnastics from it, but it’s a nice memory, and I think that’s much more important.

You treasure the good things like it’s all you have. And then we try and forget the bad things as if they never happened.

I can trace back the lives of those around me, and for each step of the way, I was there. I can trace back my steps, and I remember Ian Bernard coming over to my house every weekend, and without fail every single time he had to leave we both cried our little eyes out. We would play football games on the computer and pretend we were both characters in Star Wars, intergalactic heroes set to save the day.

I remember my pre-school graduation, we were all so nicely dressed up, and I remember us in line behind the stage of First Baptist Covington. I think to us we had made a pact that we would never leave, that this was our life and there was nothing else.

Sometimes I wish that was true; I wish I could relive the days when our teacher would forget to have a lesson planned, so we played on the playground the whole day long. I wish everyone was still here. Time passes us by, and the family we had disappears and is replaced entirely over again.

Kindergarten was a special time for me; a special time for many. I think it’s the first time we begin to not only remember, but understand. I would hide under the desks to avoid my homework, and mid-day when the lights turned off in the classroom I would pretend to sleep, but I was just listening to the music Mrs. Schmidt would play. Being a lifer at Northlake is more than the year count that you have. It’s a culmination of your life that you can trace down a single linear path.

On the stage, at Grandparent’s day, we were all told to speak into the microphone and say what job we wanted in the future. Everyone said Fireman or Police Officer, and the girls said something much different, but I remember stepping up to the microphone and wanting one thing only, “I want to be Bond, James Bond.” I’m not an international super-spy, and I don’t think I ever will be, but it’s striking the difference your dreams are as a child and what you end up as. The duality between my past self and my future self sometimes feels like looking into the eyes of a different person entirely.

First and Second grade are blurred, I had Mrs. Jarlock for both, and the only thing I remember is the girl who sat in front of me who had every single color of Crayon in a pouch. Oh, and I remember John Pritchet breaking his leg as well. He fell from the wooden fort and then Mark Hughes jumped off immediately after him, landing right on top of him.

I think it was the third grade that I began understanding what I wanted to do. It seems a bit early, but at this point, I realized I had a love of computers and I was already fixing them for teachers. Now “fixing” was a loose term, I can’t remember if I was more harm than good. At this time I developed a rivalry with Kent Busbee, the IT worker who would come in and fix what I couldn’t. It would turn out that he would become a form of mentor to me in the future.

Mark Hughes, Louis Dutel, Mason Alford, Ian Bernard, Max Cole, as it stands this was who I was friends with 4th – 6th grade; only one remains.

Middle School was different seven years ago. There was no middle school. From Kindergarten to 6th grade you were in elementary, and then after taking an entrance test to the 7th grade, you suddenly became a high schooler (I, quite hard headedly, insisted on calling myself a highschooler when at this time we were really considered Junior High members, although there was no real middle school). At this point we were taking classes with Seniors, we had lunch with all members of the high school, for all intents and purposes we were high schoolers. At this point, I’m still latching onto the same groups of friends: Mark, Dale, Louis, Preston Holiday, Brice Budwine, etc. We were an incredibly close group, and we were still a smaller class, and in many ways we had kept to our vows, staying at the school. It was 7th grade, and I still felt like I was part of the same family I was with before, just with different challenges. You can face different challenges, but if you still have the same family, then your world hasn’t changed.

9th grade was the great exodus of lifers. It was like a plague had descended upon the class. Walking on the first day we had lost nearly all of the original lifers in the class, but at the same time, new kids came in that I’m still incredibly close with. It was hard though, seeing the inevitable decline that would lead to the loss of family. Time passes by so quickly that you’d have only glanced away for a moment and it’s already gone.

Soon the lifers stand to graduate. It’s going to be a sad day when I finally walk across that stage to get my diploma. Most likely I will be moving away from home, a thousand miles in any direction, with no real support structure. I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a lifer with the school in exchange for anything, but it makes it all the harder when you have to leave. I’ve yet to finish my story at Northlake, but I’m in the final chapter, and it feels like I’ve skipped a few pages.

About the Writer
Thomas Morton, Staff Reporter

Thomas Morton is the webmaster and a student author of The Growl. He is a member of the football team and powerlifting team, as well as an officer for the school’s Key Club.

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A ‘lifers’ perspective: my 16 years at Northlake