Earlier today I finished grading what may well be the last college exams I will grade for a very, very long time. (I know the LORD – and His sense of humor – too well to say “ever.”) The grades were terrible (not to put too fine a point on it) and in many cases the students apparently thought studying ranked somewhere between tiddlywinks and rock-paper-scissors on the “critical to my life” scale.
But they’re finished, and though several flushed the exam itself, I didn’t have to fail anyone for the course as a whole. Two even managed A’s – a rare enough event to be noteworthy, and a good way for me to go out.
I’m “retiring” from teaching due to the requirements of law practice, writing and “a fairly important event to be named later” (tune in June 8 for the big announcement), but for the moment the exams are graded, practice is on hold for the duration of the holiday weekend and I’m looking down the barrel of three days of sun, swimming, grilling and fun. In other words…my overworked-yak’s version of summer vacation.
I remember summer vacations as a kid. Two months of bicycles, swimming, lemonade, cookies-stolen-from-the-kitchen-jar and running about as wild as a suburban kid with aneighborhood full of watching mothers and neighbors could go. We’d head out in the morning and sometimes have to race the streetlights home at night. Being out “after dark” was verboten, but other than that we pretty much ran free inour little four-block radius, playing at and between the homes of various family friends. Some of them had swimming pools – a thing we “non-pool kids” considered the bestthing a lucky kid could have – but sadly, they weren’t part of my inner circle, so invitations were few, far between and highly prized.
In the interim, we played in the sprinklers. We ran across wet lawns in our bathing suits, hopping crazily sideways when we accidentally stepped on that one sprinkler that just never seemed to work. We pulled out our trusty Slip-’n-Slides and tried not to crash into the cars parked in the driveway. Sometimes we even managed it. We turned on a hose – full blast – and ran around while it whipped back and forth like an angry Python. The one who could get closest without being hit in the head was the winner, and earned the right to grab the nozzle and douseasmany others as possible beforeDad came out and told us to quit foolin’ with the hose.
Several local families traded off barbecue parties all summer long. Just about every weekend found us over at someone’s house playing football in the yard, whacking the other kids with toy swords or turning ill-fated flip-flops on someone’s trampoline (ahh, the ’70s, when every cool entertainment would probably kill you, but nobody mindedas long as you didn’t bleed on the rug)while the “grown-ups” watched sports on TV, grilled burgers and visited amongst themselves. After dinner, someone would pull out an old-fashioned ice cream maker (salt ice an endless supply of available labor…) and we’d crowd around to take our turns at the crank. Then, sooner or later (never sooner enough) someone would tell us the ice cream must be ready and we’d hover near the back door until the mother-in-residence showed up with bowls of home-churned goodness. Sometimes it was chocolate, sometimes vanilla (and at one memorable house, Butterfinger! YES!) but it always melted fast and disappeared even faster.
We played baseball in the street. We rode bikes to the corner grocery store and toThe Candy Alley(back whensuch things as “candy stores” existed), where we spent inappropriately-long periods of time deciding how to split $1 as many ways as possible. The woman who owned The Candy Alley must have spent countless hours standing behind that counter, waiting patiently while her ten-to-twelve year old customers tried to decide between 15 cents worth of gumdrops and splurging for one of the giant, all-day jawbreakers that cost a wallet-busting quarter apiece. If she wished we’d go jump in a lake, she never let on. If anything, she seemed to like us (must have, to spend that many years running a little candy store) – and I’ve never known a shopkeeper since who’d take the time to weigh outtwelve-and-a-half cents worth of root beer jelly beans andtwelve-and-a-half cents worth of cherry just so two siblings with onequarter between them could each have a choice. (True story. And yes, I still like the root beer ones.)
The summer I turned 12the Random Parentsputa poolin our backyard. Suddenly our house was the place to be. Marco Polo and water polo replaced baseball (thoughpedaling yourbike to the corner store for a popsicle was still the best of all possible ways to dry off). The “family barbecue” happened at home more often than not. We filled theyard with shouting kids and struggled to keep the salty ice-cream maker runoff out of the pool. We bought snorkels and swim fins and learned to use them without snorting water up our noses (much). We taught our Lhasa Apso to swim – and she hated every minute of it.
Some time thereafter I guess I outgrew summer vacation. Not summer, exactly, and not vacation – but the two-as-one concept that characterized my younger years. Adolescence brought new responsibilities at home and at school. Summer jobs replaced carefree afternoons with the hose. High school and college flew by.
Iworked, married,had a kid of my own.
A kid who happens to be twelve this summer. He has a pool. And a bike. A shaved-ice maker has replaced the cranky ice-cream bucket of old, but he gets the general idea. In two more weeks, he’ll be finished with school. And if you ask him, I think he’d agree that although his experiences are vastly different from my own in some ways….
Summer vacation is still One Good Thing.
Trackposted to Outside the Beltway, Blue Collar Muse, third world county, DeMediacratic Nation, The Right Nation, Pirate’s Cove, , Dumb Ox Daily News, and Conservative Cat, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.