No More Pencils, No More Books

May 22, 2009

Today is the last day of school.

Maybe not for you. I know there’s a couple of you who homeschool, so you probably checked out weeks ago. Not that it matters, since you managed to complete two whole grade levels in every subject last month alone. I digress…

The last day of school is a bittersweet time, and a time that as a ‘professional student’ even in my adult life, I have never let go of. There have always been lots of things I have anticipated or dreaded about summer vacation, and some of them have changed over the years.

Summer Vacation Means to Me…

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…Again
Everyone knows that the last day of school is a government required waste of time and taxpayer money…which strangely makes sense, now that I write that out. There is no time for any learning, so the teachers usually play movies. When I was in school, the go to movie was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, how my loathing grew lo those many years for Willy Wonka and his garish purple coat and that insufferable Veruca Salt. See what you homeschool kids are missing out on? While we’re jumping through government hoops, preparing for standing in line at the DMV as adults, you’re still learning!

Yearbook Signings
Ah, the yearbook, the awkward final handshake between two people who don’t have anything in common, will not keep in touch, and will repeat the whole process again at the end of the next school year…this is the true life lesson taught in school. Have you ever pretended to record someone’s number in your phone as they recite it to you, with no intention of ‘keeping in touch?’

Looking through my yearbooks, most kids summed up their thoughts about me with some variation of ‘Have a great summer,’ or ‘Stay smart!’ (Thanks for the tip.) A trend at that time was to write “H.A.K.A.S.” which meant, ‘Have A Kick Ace Summer.” I guess it felt cool to write a letter that stood for an PG13 word…kind of like drinking an O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer…living dangerously.

However I could count on my best friend at the time to leave a memorable quote to remember him by. Like two brothers exchanging endless punches to the arm, our friendship as 13-year-old boys was largely based on toughening one another up through the age old ritual of constant harassment and making fun of each other. Playing off the tired ‘H.A.K.A.S.,’ his yearbook entry read thus:

“Matt – H.A.G.S.Y.P.L.

Have a great summer, you pathetic loser. Not really, I hope your summer is boring and rancid. Mine will obviously be much better, except that it will end and I will go back to school and see you. Just kidding! Have a great summer, and keep in touch. (But for God’s sake, take a shower.)

You can see the seeds of who I am today were sown many years ago…

Sleeping in that first, sweet, lazy Monday
Just as the first rays of sun are peeking over the horizon on that first glorious Monday morning, some neighbor sees an errant blade of grass and just has to rev up his lawnmower at some ungodly hour. Doesn’t he know people are trying to sleep?

Well, that’s what I looked forward to as a kid. Now I get excited about…

Yard Work
I never imagined as a kid, forced to push a mower around my parents’ yard, that one day, I would grow up, get a college degree, get married, have friends, be able to legally drink an O’Doul’s, be a responsible citizen, and actually start caring about the grass growing in my yard. I mean, I knew adult life would be awesome, but I never thought it would be this awesome! And everyone knows, the wee hours of the morning are the best time to cut my precious, delicate grass.

I think camp is an important experience in a child’s life. As kids, we’d run around the house packing our things, bragging to our parents about how great it was going to be sleeping in the woods, getting covered in bugs, playing in the dirt, eating camp food, and we won’t be back for 10 whole days! Mom and Dad were always like, ‘And we can’t go with you? Darn it!’

Of course, as an adult, the joke is clear and I look forward to nothing more than having kids, raising them, and sending them out of my house and into the wild for two precious weeks each year.

The rest of summer is full of car trips, with Mom doing that thing with her hand in front of the air conditioning vent, asking, ‘Are you getting any air back there?’ There’s also backyard grilling, blockbuster movies, bad summer television, sun tea, and the saddest man in the world – the ice cream man. How could he be so sad, you ask, when he gets to listen to the ‘Monopoly’ song all day!

Finally, summer ends, and the last annual ritual takes place…

Drawing a blank on the the first back-to-school assignment, the ‘What I did on my Summer Vacation’ essay.
Summer was always a bit more dreary in the knowledge that whatever you did, it better be awesome enough to write down in a teacher mandated essay.

What are you most looking forward to this summer? What was your favorite thing about summer as a child?