Cycle of life centers on school’s start, summer

When we were kids there was one day every year that my friends and I dreaded.

For about a month before it arrived its specter periodically intruded on pleasant days the way an approaching thunderstorm threatens a productive fishing trip or a tight baseball game.

Thoughts about that upcoming day needed to be banished immediately; but, at times, it just had to be broached with a classmate.

Maybe two people contemplating the horror of the first day of school could stave it off a little longer.

We talked about it beneath the shade of a pecan tree or at the baseball field. We advanced rumors — mostly bad — about what our new teacher would be like.

I suppose summer vacation produced periods of boredom I have forgotten, but I recall summer as a series of Huck Finn days even if I lacked a raft and an open river.

The end of summer vacation was like what a criminal surely feels when going before a judge to be sentenced to incarceration without benefit of parole.

That changed when I got into high school. Summers ceased to be days of knocking down army men with clods of dirt, playing board games in the heat of the day and fishing or plinking with a .22 from a bayou bank in the late afternoon.

Instead I packed a large sprayer of pesticide among dense, sharp leaves of sugar cane or sweltered on a roof nailing shingles. The end of summer and start of school didn’t seem so bad.

Likewise, the thought of starting college seemed literally cool while working on a road-building crew.

After college there was no long summer vacation once the real Army beckoned. Vacations became quick trips home with half the time lost in traveling.

Not until I had children of kindergarten-age did I give much more thought to school vacations. They became a special time for family trips.

I adjusted my schedule and commiserated with my kids when they had to go back to school. My daughter didn’t seem to mind the return as much as my sons did, or as much as I had.

When they went away to college, the end of summer again became a sad event.

My kids all have been out of school for a while now, but having married a teacher I again find life affected by the cycle of the school year.

Mary loves the kids she teaches, but not the paperwork of special education or getting up before 5 a.m. and working on lesson plans until bedtime.

For teachers, like students, the end of summer vacation means the loss of freedom.

Much like I did when I was a kid, she began to count down the last days of summer vacation well before the first day of school arrived.

It’s a long time until Thanksgiving.