The day after the final school bell rang to signal the end of classes for a glorious two months, there was something special in the air.
It wasn’t so much the turning of the school calendar, but a spiritual feeling deep down that something wonderful was just beyond the grasp of a varied crew of school friends who had not yet been transported to another town for classes. We were still the original group, 20-or-so of us who shared the one-room school that housed multiple grades.
The higher grades were in another school room and we in the lower grades were either in awe or deathly afraid of those older kids.
I have always considered myself lucky to have been schooled in a multi-grade classroom. Eavesdropping on the lessons of the higher grades did nothing but prepare some of us for being moved along at the end of the year — or even being asked to participate in some of the lessons of those advanced grades — as long as we had finished our own grade’s assignments.
Getting 100 per cent on a Grade 4 exam while still in Grade 2 was better than a gold star but then the parents of a student in Grade 4 complained that the teacher should have been giving more attention to their Grade 4 child, and thus ended the experimental educational method of the teacher.
But I digress. The air simply felt different at the beginning of summer. Maybe it was the freedom to roam at will, to spend entire days outdoors, except for the Saturday dusting chores, of course. Even working in the garden seemed less tedious and more like an adventure — counting the pea pods, racing to pick the most beans and waving at every vehicle that passed by on the road beside our property. And of course every one of those drivers waved back or honked, as was the custom of rural friendliness.
Packing a lunch and heading out on gas deliveries with my Dad didn’t have to wait until the weekend or after school. If there were a delivery to be done on Monday, then there I was, plopped in the passenger seat beside my dog, “helping” Dad make his deliveries of farm fuel and pails of lubricants to his customers.
At some farms we were invited to stop for coffee or Freshie and home baked cake or cookies. Of course we accepted and it was a foregone conclusion that Mom didn’t need to know about these lunch breaks, especially when we told her we weren’t very hungry when we got home. I suspect she knew what we were hiding!
Summer also meant that two of my friends would join me for the bike ride to our friend’s farm north of the village. Before leaving home we were warned to be extra careful when crossing the busy Trans-Canada Highway to get to the grid road leading to her house.
Upon arrival there we would head directly to the corral when her placid, old, fat and sway-backed horse stood. The horse was likely thinking, “Oh Lord, not those giggly girls again.” But she was patient and allowed all of us to climb onto her back for a walk around the enclosure. A rocket could go off and her pace would not have picked up.
We’d eat our lunch in the trees with the cats and dogs and then it would be time to head back to town. Her parent quite often put our bikes in the back of his truck and we’d pile in to be delivered to our respective homes. I’m sure by the end of summer he and the horse likely wished his daughter’s friends would go elsewhere.
All too soon the days of summer were over and done and it was time to head back to school. We were dressed in our new outfits, carrying a binder of new notebooks, precisely sharpened pencils and a metal box of utensils with which to draw graphs and other mathematical shapes.
There was a different feeling at the end of summer, but I can still remember what it was like to be wild and free for two months of every year — until we became too grown up to admit to thinking there was magic in the air. Happy summer everyone.
Joyce Walter can be reached at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.