Summertime. And the livin’ is easy. Except, of course, if you’re a schoolteacher or student. Your summer’s about over even before it’s truly begun. Long gone are the days when the annual break in the academic action lasted almost a full three months. To many, it now probably seems more like three weeks.
Those of a certain age will no doubt remember the school year ending sometime around the first week of June. My Dad’s birthday was June 8th, and I always looked forward to celebrating with him because it meant we were free, free, free to have nothing but fun, fun, fun while the sun shone brightly from early morning to well into the evening.
Although you were more than ready to chuck the books and start playing, you really didn’t have to cram anything in hurriedly. You could sleep for at least the first week, rising only to grab a snack, read a comic book, play some records, and do nothing that approximated schoolwork. Even if you loafed your way through June, there was still all of July and August ahead. (Back-to-back 31-day months . . . what could be better?)
I know today some educators and parents argue that kids don’t/won’t retain as much of what they’ve learned over the school year if they have three months to forget it. But others point out how beneficial it is for children to have the advantage of playing outdoors.
Under the sun was definitely the place to be when I was growing up. Of course, my friends and I didn’t have anything close to video games, social media, or 600 cable channels of supposed entertainment from which to choose indoors. Three TV stations, maybe four if there was an independent one in town, didn’t provide a whole lot of enticing choices.
After fixing me a delicious bowl of Sugar Pops, Mom would shoo me out the door. If a neighborhood baseball game was afoot, she’d pack me a lunch knowing full well I’d be gone ’til dinner time. There were other diversions as well. Creeks to explore, bike rides to take, games to invent, and a visit to the Clarks to make, for example.
I don’t remember how many Clark kids there were, but enough so that most age groups in the neighborhood had a connection. They were mostly girls, but they did have one boy, thank goodness, who was close to my age. Their large tract of land bore no resemblance to the not-quite-cookie-cutter homes and lawns that made up the rest of the neighborhood. The parents of that big brood wanted their kids to play at home. So they built a swimming pool and tennis courts, and left enough room for a baseball/football field. And everybody was always invited to come play. Which we did. Often.
I definitely learned to have no fear of water at the Clarks’ pool, and I even overcame most of my innate fear of the deep by retrieving items off the bottom of the diving area. And, as any tennis professional who saw me play would concur, I learned that game by trial and error on their courts.
As July rolled lazily toward August, I don’t really remember being bored – except when my best friend would go on his annual vacation with his family. Fortunately, I taught my oldest sister to play baseball (and she was darn good) so we could at least continue backyard games.
There was no panic when August popped up. Because school never started until the Wednesday after Labor Day. And even that reluctant return was tempered for me. My birthday is in the first week of September, and every six years it’s a national holiday.
My town had a “Holiday at Home” parade on Labor Day. It was an encouragement for residents to not travel but to instead patronize the local shops for back-to-school clothes and supplies. Pretty much the whole town turned out to watch the high school bands march down the street with all the assorted civic groups. Cheerleaders always decorated floats, and politicians and beauty queens rode in convertibles.
There was even an air of excitement floating through the atmosphere on the holiday evening when the city shot off fireworks at the packed high school stadium. You saw kids from school you hadn’t seen all summer and actually looked forward to being with them again. The first football game was the Friday after classes started. In other words, you were refreshed and ready to begin anew. Somehow, even with summer off we still learned to read, write, and cypher quite well. And the School Board didn’t have to worry about August air-conditioning bills either.
©MMXIX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer
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