Last Day of School

I remember the anticipation and excitement riding the bus to school as a kid on the final day before summer vacation. No schoolwork from the teachers, field day parties and the joy of knowing the next three months there would be no homework!

I can still hear the bell ringing and teachers wishing us a good summer. Tinged with the excitement, however, was some sadness. I think about Mrs. Mayberry, Mrs. Paulsmeyer and Mrs. Osborn. These teachers in Elementary school carved deep grooves of meaning and purpose in my heart by their words and actions. I walked out of their classrooms knowing I would miss them.

I still do.

I also said goodbye to friends for the summer. Back then we didn’t have social media to keep in contact. I lived out in the country. If I didn’t play summer baseball with them, I would most likely not see these friends until the first day of school in the fall. The cute girls in my class were the hardest to say goodbye to.

I remember the bus rides home on those last days of school. Everyone talked loudly and freely, knowing the joys of summer awaited. Squirt gun fights would break out behind the bus driver’s back. Invariably, I would walk off the bus soaked.

My sister remembered when she was in grade school her bus driver, Elsie Mitchell, would bring the kids oranges or applies on the last day of school, and one time treated all the kids at Dairy Queen.

I remember our brothers and sister’s ritual after that last day of school was having our own Stone family version of squirt gun fights. We would use empty bottles of Ivory dishwash soap containers Mom would save up for us. Huge streams of water would gush out tinged slightly with left over soap that made your eyes burn. I can still feel the warmth of the late May sun mixed with the soaking wetness on my jean shorts and tank top.

My brothers and I would play wiffle ball, basketball on our grass/gravel court by the propane tank, ride bikes (if we had one) on HH highway by our house. When Dad got home from work we might go down to Bear Creek to swim, catch crawdads and cook out hotdogs with chips and cheap soda. The joy of summer and the anticipation for summer league baseball mixed with the dread of Dad’s pronouncement that we would be helping pick strawberries and pull weeds the next morning. 

Our family never went on summer vacations. Dad worked construction and tended to our large garden, selling strawberries in late spring/early summer, then tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Working in the garden in the morning assured us Dad would take us to our baseball games that evening at Mang Field. I can still smell the grass in the outfield and the warm gravel dirt on the infield, the concrete bleachers, and the concession stand. I can still hear ducks quacking as they scurried across the outfield, and the loud whistles of the passing train drowning out all our chatter from the infield. I can still taste a Mr. Misty after the game at the nearby Dairy Queen.

All these 50 years later, I can still smell, hear, feel, and taste those memories of the last day of school and the beginning of summer vacation. I pray today’s youth experience similar joys of the simplicity of summer, and maybe spend less time on smart phones, the internet and video games. More time should be spent outside exploring nature, a local creek or river, and having water fights with old Ivory soap containers.

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