the sun sets gently, goodnight riviera

Personal Blog Nosh Magazine {Originally Published on Mommy Melee}

It’s a little after 5:30 and the sun is starting to give everything a rusty, magic glow. Green is greener. Blue is bluer. And half of Riviera Middle School is in ruins.


I knew about it, of course—racing the sun to get the light, to document the destruction before I forget, before it’s gone gone gone. I have my camera in the passenger seat. I pull up against the fence, crack the windows for my sons in the backseat, and step out onto the pavement.

Monsters in the parking lot. Two giant diggers. (The dinosaurs are eating the school, my son whispers.) The sun glints just right, a little flare of personality. A wink. I shiver and start taking pictures.


Gum on the seat, then my jeans, a jacket tied around my waist. Crying on the phone, please come and let me go home, the girls are so mean. I write a report on dachshunds. A boy in gifted class writes a song about the way I pick my nose. I know I’m not the only one who thinks about last year’s rape incident every time I march up the dingy stairwells. I have a boyfriend for three days in the hall. A high school student volunteers with the after school chorus program. Why don’t blondes use vibrators, he asks me. Because they chip their teeth. I don’t get the joke.

When I hear tires crunching on gravel, I turn, jittery. But it’s not the cops, it’s a woman in an old Neon. She climbs out of the car as if exhausted by the movement, exhales heavily and tells me, “I’ve been waiting for this day.”

“Oh.” It’s awkward. “I went to school here. In 1992.” I take another photo, trying to give her space.

“I taught here for twenty years. Do you remember me?”

I don’t. But her face is familiar. Tired. I shake my head apologetically.

She explains where her classroom is, hopeful, reaching for a connection, so I smile and nod. “Yes, I remember that.” But there’s nothing else to say. I’m glad to see the beast go. But I’m not celebrating. This is a funeral.

After a while, she walks back to her car. “Thank you for sharing this moment with me.”

When she leaves, it’s just me and the diggers. They linger in the parking lot, ominous and hungry. I keep my body between them and my boys in the car. As the traffic whisks by behind us, I take a few more pictures. Someone honks.



Focus. Unfocus. The fence. The ruins. The fence. The steps.


I trip on my backpack and fall on the sidewalk. It bleeds so much my mom thinks I have a gunshot wound. It leaves a perfectly round scar. I ride my bike to school, singing into the wind, licking my braces. I get my period during lunch break. Two girls push me in the bathroom, steal my jacket, and a few dollars from my pocket. My science teacher, handsome, says, “smile—you look like your dog just died.” I smile.

The boys aren’t sleeping, but they both stay quiet. The hair on my arms stands up and I abruptly turn the camera off, walk to my car, and drive away.

Editor’s Pick from Jennifer at Playgroups are No Place for Children.  I’ve been quietly reading Maria for several months now, usually too in awe to comment on her poignant essays.  She has a wonderful eloquence and ability to keep me reading.   Not only does she write for her personal blog, but her writing can also be found at Aiming Low, SexIs Magazine, Deep South Mom Blogs, and Your Mama Reviews.  And that’s not even the half of it, as she also designs for Sweet Blog Design .

You can read the original posts and see all the pictures of the destruction of Riviera Middle School.  Go ahead and subscribe to Maria’s blog.  You can also follow her on Twitter where she’s now well known getting Dooce to reply to her.

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4 Comments to “the sun sets gently, goodnight riviera”

  1. Karen Murphy says:

    Speechless. So lovely.

  2. It really is hard to comment. Because this is so poignant. There aren’t words really. I could feel what you were feeling and imagine what it would be like to watch a building that holds my stories…go away.

    Lovely post.

  3. Laurin says:

    I first read this not long after I found your blog and was completely wowed. I had a personal connection to it since my stepdaughters went to Riviera and we all spent so much time there. I emailed it to the girls and their mother, proud to say I “knew” the author. I’m really glad that’s now true!