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  • Kate Forest

School’s Out Forever

My most vivid start-of-summer memory is the summer I was 23. That was the summer nothing happened. That was the summer when I simply kept working past June, into July, and all the way until Labor Day. That was the first summer I wasn’t beholden to the school calendar.

Summers filled with sleep away camp, family trips, endless hanging out with friends, summer jobs and not being in class. That’s what summer had meant for the first 23 years of my life. Then, without warning, it changed. I worked 9 to 5 five days a week. (Sunday to Thursday to cover the weekend duties of the psychiatric hospital that was my first social work job.)

This doesn’t rate on the tragic scale. I had a job that paid well, in the career I wanted. Recently married, living in California, what could be bad?

Being an adult. That’s what was bad. Summer no longer meant anything special. It no longer broke up the year into identifiable segments. Summer was just another few months.

This trauma soon passed and I fell into the routine of 2 weeks paid vacation, and carefully counting my personal days. Precious time off guarded like a dragon sitting atop his hoard of gold. His tail carefully pulling in those few hours of comp time, lest they scatter away.

This is not me:

Also, how did he not get wet while positioning himself on the raft?

And when I had my kids, nothing changed. Day care was open all year, because guess what? I worked all year.

But wait, another blow was waiting. My son started Kindergarten with the typical anxiety for all of us. Without a thought, June came and school was out. What the heck happened? I had no warning that I would again be beholden to the school calendar. No one mentioned this. Not one teacher or administrator, no one in the PTA, said anything like “Oh, by the way, your kid will have nothing to do from the middle of June until after Labor Day.” There were plenty of details about health forms, supplies, but nada about what to do when June rolls around. These people are negligent.

But I was also thrilled. Because summer meant something special again. And I could fill my kids’ summer months with camps, vacations, endless hanging out with friends. And that’s almost better than doing it myself.

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