Farewell to the Moon Gate

by Melynda Schauer

“It’s the Morrison moon gate,” the text from my brother John says, and my heart drops a little when I see the photo. 

Where there was once a white gate with an open circle and red wooden doors, only a shell remains. The photo, taken by a friend who works at the international boarding school in Taiwan where I attended high school, shows a pile of rubble and a construction vehicle in the background. A sight once so familiar to my teenage eyes is now being ripped apart, half a world away. 

In a group text to me and to our other brother, John says he heard they’re hoping to save our school’s iconic moon gate, but its final fate isn’t certain. 

The demolition is a part of a years-long plan to tear down old buildings that are no longer up to code yet hold decades of memories. In their place, a beautifully modern new campus is growing, one I saw with my own eyes on my last trip back seven years ago. 

We’re in our early thirties now, but my brothers and I still have vivid memories from the school we also called home in the years between 2003 and 2009. I graduated first, but returned for each of their graduations, once in 2008 and again in 2009. I returned, again, with my husband in 2015, joining my brother and his wife (who was also raised in Taiwan) for a two-week adventure up and down the island. 

I haven’t been back since that summer, when I visited my former dorm parents in their new dorm high-rise. From tenth through twelfth grade, I was one of the “dormies,” a subset within the subset of Morrison students. 

How fitting that as I type, my iPhone tries to autocorrect “dormies” to “Formosa,” as if it intuits the place I’m referring to: Formosa is the Portuguese name for Taiwan. It means “Beautiful Isle,” and it lives up to that name. As I passed through the moon gate each morning of high school, I could see the mountains through the palm trees if the skies were clear, the peaks always most visible just after a typhoon. 

I have known for more than a decade that our old high school would eventually be torn down in segments. After one brother’s graduation, I watched an entire wing of the building where I had Bible class come down in the first phase of construction. It didn’t sting in the same way. Even when my old dorm was no longer where the current dorm kids lived, I was still able to visit the staff family who lived inside and look around those familiar halls. It wasn’t the same, but it was still there. 

But it was the moon gate coming down this summer that brought a knot to my throat as I scrolled through Instagram, glimpsing the same photo my brother had already texted me. 

I lived there more than half my lifetime ago; it’s been seventeen years since I was seventeen and strolling through the moon gate as a confident junior, hurrying to volleyball practice or returning home, bleary eyed from a late night in the yearbook room. 

Perhaps it’s because of its history, its seeming permanence as a Place, a landmark, that this loss hits harder. There are so few Places I can return to and show my children one day. As the landscape of my alma mater—as I remember it—is erased, will the memories be erased too? 

The author Melynda Shauer stands in the Moon Gate on a return visit in 2015. Photo Credit: Melynda Shauer

I know it’s simply concrete walls and a red-painted wooden door. I know it couldn’t really last forever. I know that wherever they move it, the earth where it stood will still be there. I know I could eventually find the exact spot, even when new buildings cover it; but I also know it will never be the same. 

My generation of third-culture kids from that school are entering our thirties. Most of our parents have returned to their home countries now; and many of us are raising children in our passport countries, which brings up its own series of questions and nuances. 

My life is full of blessings from God for which I am so, so grateful: my husband, our three beautiful kids, our families, friends, and church. My missionary kid upbringing is one of those blessings. In spite of the unique challenges of growing up overseas, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

But the questions remain in my heart, beating like a poem: How do we grieve when there’s nowhere to go? How does the TCK diaspora learn to let go? How do we help one another say goodbye and move on? How do we mourn what is gone? 

While the digital world can connect us, there’s still a word-of-mouth TCK grapevine that’s alive and well, curling around the globe, connecting families and friends in far-flung places. Often, I’ll hear about a diagnosis, death, prayer request, marriage, or birth announcement through the grapevine long before I see anyone post about it on social media. The bonds formed in childhood between our friends and our families remain strong despite the years and distance. It’s a small world. And some things are still best shared in person, or at least over FaceTime.® 

If your heart is clenching as you read this, there’s probably a Place you’ve seen torn down, too. Probably a spot not worth very much to most people, but a treasured Place for you and your people. A physical reminder of where you grew up and a part of your history that you’ll never see again. 

Perhaps it’s the sense of communal loss that unites us after all these years. I may never make it to a class reunion, but if I meet a fellow alumnus in person again, we can take a moment of silence for the moon gate. For all of those places we lived in, loved in, learned in, and left; for the homes that only live in our collective memories. 

There’s still a word-of-mouth TCK grapevine that’s alive and well, curling around the globe

I know we can’t keep things the same forever and we’re not meant to, but I do believe we are designed to remember, to honor, to say goodbye. 

So, farewell to the moon gate. You were a beloved place on our campus for decades, as countless people passed through you over the years. Your portal was a place of beauty, and for many of us the meeting of two worlds: home and school. 

You meant more than we knew, and as with so many things, we didn’t realize how much you mattered until you were gone.

Melynda Joy Schauer is an adult TCK who grew up in Macau, Taiwan, and Alabama, US. She now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and three children. She keeps her international side alive by meeting international students in her city and finding the best bubble tea everywhere she goes!


Bright Sunshiny Day

Bright Sunshiny Day

By Rebecca Hopkins We passed probably the sixth farm when the song, “I Can See

No One Knew

No One Knew

by Ilya Jewel Cheung Every one of her things  Had been used before 

You May Also Like