Summer. The mere word evokes sunshine and freedom. This strange school year of 2020 ended on Wednesday with a socially distanced ceremony and cap toss. It was complicated, but the students were pleased. Reports are finished and my dining room has been returned to its normal look minus the books and desk of the past few months. Today I took on the unenviable task of cleaning out the Home Ec room refrigerator - we had done it very quickly at the beginning of the pandemic - but there were still many items that went into the garbage today, followed by a good scrubbing.
As a child, I took swimming lessons in the summer. My younger sister and brother and I rode our bicycles 3.5 kilometres to the park where took lessons. If the lessons were early, oh how cold that water felt, and what courage it took to jump in. On hot days (and there were many) we stayed at the park with a packed lunch and spent the afternoons alternately swimming and relaxing in the shade before pedaling home and getting hot and sweaty again. Often our friends joined us on their bikes.
Summer days were meant for adventure. Up and down the hills we rode our bicycles, free as the wind. If we found a newly asphalted street we felt like we'd hit the jackpot. It was so smooth and quiet, unlike the rougher, older streets. Other days we biked to the edge of our subdivision where railway tracks snaked along the hills. Crossing the tracks we left our bikes on a wide shoulder and hiked into the dry sagebrush-covered hills, up narrow canyons where tiny creeks trickled. We clambered up steep paths that now make me nervous to think about. How fearless we were.
Sometimes my mother would make a picnic dinner - deviled eggs, cold cuts, cottage cheese, pickles, and bread - and all five of us would pile into the car with our swimsuits and towels. Riverside Park had huge trees and cool green grass. There was a pool, but we often swam in the cold, fast-running Thompson river. How pleased I was when I could swim all the way to the dock that defined the swimming area. Shivering and panting I caught my breath on the dock before braving the cold and current to swim back to shore.
On the hottest of days I hunkered down in the relatively cool basement, reading for hours and hours. My parents purchased a set of encyclopedias, black with red bands. Along with them came a set of children's books with various coloured volumes - poetry, mythology, fairy tales and more. Then there were The Adventures of the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, and the Reader's Digest. At the end of Grade 3 our teacher, Mrs. Simard, had us count up the number of A's in our language arts workbooks and gave a prize to the student with the most. That was me, and the book was Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott. I read and re-read the story. I finally discarded the book just a few years ago as it fell into pieces.
Summer time seemed to both slow down and speed up. In my memory there was immense freedom, and time to think, explore, and play. As a teacher, summer still holds much of the same magic - a variety of routine, more freedom to choose what to do, and time to play and create. Just now my mind is rather blank, and I like that. It's time for a bit of a break. There are nebulous plans, but nothing too urgent. Yet I know that summer days are fleeting and it's best to not wait too long to do what I want to do.
Summer days - how do you feel about them?