Today is the last day of school for the Little Man before the summer begins. The Little Miss and the Little Miss finished up school a week ago, and the Littlest Miss a week before that. Thinking about the last days of school has put me in mind my own last days of school.
It wasn’t the last day of school that I remember looking forward to. It was the first day of summer. My fondest memories of last days at school was in fourth and fifth grades when I lived in New England. The days always seem bright, clear, and warm. You could feel summer in the air. The last days at the elementary school I attended were half-days, and they were not spent in the classroom. We split our time between the playgrounds outdoors, and the gym.
The school was surrounded by wooded areas with a big field on one side, and a large paved area in between. There were several areas with playground equipment, and several other areas where we would play tag. I remember an excitement in the air. School was over and the summer was beginning. As a nine or ten year old, summer seemed to stretch out forever and the next school year was the vaguest blur on the horizon.
In the gym, we watched movies, and I seem to recall there being snacks offered, popcorn and other sweets. I have vague memories of one particular movie we saw, but not enough to identify it. I do remember enjoying it.
Summer meant being able to sleep in a bit, but I think we wanted to get out an play with our friends. These were the days before personal devices of any kind. There was cable, and a few friends had Atari consoles. MTV was the biggest draw, but we were more interested in getting outside.
Later, when we moved to L.A., the last day of school brought on similar emotions. We’d fall into a routine of watching a few TV shows in the morning before finally striking out with our friends to find whatever adventures awaited. We’d watch reruns of The Love Boat or The Dukes of Hazzard. Occasionally, I remember watching reruns of Flipper. Then we’d be out and enjoying the summer.
I lived in the moment back then, far more than I am capable of doing today. I never thought about the coming school year. I rarely thought about the next day. Summer was each day unto itself, and the next day was an entirely new summer. There were plenty of moments of boredom, but looking back on it, I am grateful for that boredom. It is where my mind would wander.
My last real summer vacation was the summer after tenth grade. After that, I was old enough to begin working, and I spent my summers working, first in a stationary store, then in a local pharmacy. There was still time to play, still time to hang out with friends, but work was an obligation, like school, and it took the shine off my summers. I haven’t had a summer off since.
With my retirement now about ten years away, I have started to think of my last day of work the way I used to think of my last day of school. I think it would be fitting to retire sometime in mid-to-late June. It would be very much like the last day of school, and for the first time in more than forty years, I’d have an entire summer spread about before me, each day its own mini-summer, ready to explore.