Chalk it up to the latent truancy that exists in parent and child alike, but I’ve been less than motivated these last few weeks. From the middle of May onward, I found myself slogging through the final projects, class picnics, and end-of-school year programs. I bought the ice cream, clapped for the perfect attendance awards, and sniffled through fifth-grade graduation. When the last bell rang, my kids weren’t the only ones ready to be done.
No more lunches to pack…
No more homework to muddle through…
No more waking up in the middle of the night to remember what I forgot…
At least for the next 104 days or so.
I grew up in a teacher’s home; in fact, it was a two-teacher home. Both my mother and father spent their days schooling future generations in the finer points of history and science. For our family, life existed in discreet increments of 9 weeks that gradually worked their way toward the ultimate goal of summer vacation. Dad often had to take odd jobs during his months off to make ends meet, but occasionally, every so often, there was a glorious summer when we had enough. He could stay with us, tend his garden, putter in his orchard, and simply enjoy working at home.
Of course, we still had responsibilities, even as children; but there was something marked about the sense of freedom we felt when school wrapped up. Instead of lesson planning and testing and grade books, our days were filled with berry picking, camping, ice cream, and lounging on the couch watching cartoons. We might go on vacation or travel to see relatives, but the joy of summer was directly tied to the fact that we didn’t HAVE TO. Dewy June mornings evaporated into hot July afternoons which eventually gave way to the muggy nights of August. And all of them blissfully unscheduled.
At least, that’s how I remember it.
Later in life, I learned that this wasn’t exactly the norm. My sense of extended vacation was, in many ways, the result of both my childhood naivete and my parents unusual work schedules. Most of my friends didn’t experience summer the way I did, especially if both their parents worked and they ended up at grandma’s or in multiple sessions of day camp topped off with nightly VBS. In many ways, our family lived in a world apart, moving to our own rhythms, resisting outside forces. We did participate in church activities, offering up our service at Bible school or youth group camping trips, but for the most part, my parents felt no need to live their lives the way everyone else did.
For me, this meant that I carried some interesting expectations into adulthood, particularly that the world should slow down during the months of June, July, and August. In these times, you’d need only do the bare minimum outside your home. Certainly you must work. Those afternoons in front of the television often included snapping green beans, but somehow it was different. We were working for ourselves. We were investing in our own home and family. We weren’t obligated to anyone else.
Eighteen summers of this will shape a person. So that even today, my heart seems to skip a few beats faster when June rolls around. June means freedom. June means family.
At dinner the other night, after a discussion of loose teeth, why ice doesn’t sink, and the obligatory knock-knock joke, I leaned over to my husband.
“You do realize,” I said, looking conspiratorially into those brown eyes that got us here in the first place, “you do realize that we are living in a Beverly Clearly novel.”
A Beverly Clearly novel set smack-dab in the middle of summer.
I tell you all this to explain where I’ll be for the next few months. The last bell has rung, and I’m taking the summer off. I might pop in now and again, but don’t expect to see much of me. There may be some previously scheduled posts on FB or Twitter, and I might work up the effort to record a podcast or two, but for the most part, it’s going to be quiet.
Somebody’s got to teach these kids how summer’s done.