The Mystery of Summer Vacation

Unless you are a teacher, you will never experience the mystery of summer vacation.

The school year grinds relentlessly through your calendar for ten months. Deadlines loom like boogie men. State tests. Report cards. Awards. Room inspection. Then one day, you leave your key with the school secretary and walk out to a new world. Your chest relaxes and you can breathe. The sun smiles at your secret summer plans, and for a moment you forget that it will burn you. You don’t realize that you have started to giggle, causing others around you to stare.

Except other teachers, who share a secret smile.

During summer vacation, mornings are quiet and leisurely. Birds chirping outside are the only ones busy at work. When you finally roll out of bed and stretch, the sun is well on its daily trek across the sky. Devotion time is not rushed. Coffee is savored. Plans for the day include reading on a lounger in the pool. No grading papers. No staff meetings.

The first few days are a blur. Your mind is resetting itself for summer mode. But after a while, you notice other people racing around in their cars during the day, especially in the morning and early evening. That’s right! You forgot that other people go to work. In the back of your mind, you know that you’re only on summer vacation for ten weeks, but now you can only see empty, uncommitted squares on your calendar.

However, you are a teacher, so you have made plans for some of those days. Beach trips, camping, visiting relatives. But those events are not squeezed into the school year, so your forehead doesn’t wrinkle when you think about them. You’ll have plenty of time to shop and pack in the days to come.

Weeks go by. Smiling comes easy. Your family enjoys your company. Your dogs wag their tails at the door as they wait for their morning walk.

As July comes to an end, anxious thoughts poke their way through your summer brain. Will I have a good class this year? Will our principal do that same old team building activity during our first staff meeting? You rebuke these thoughts as it is not time yet.

Then a letter arrives. Your spouse laid it on the kitchen counter without a comment. You pick it up with trembling hands because you know what it means. Your principal sends it every year.

The dreaded Welcome Back to School Letter. With all the dates for meetings and days you can get your key to work on your classroom. Each line cuts into your soul.

Summer is almost over. Frantically, you try to jam in as many activities as possible before your report back date. Your smile is fading now. Your laugh sounds a little forced.

And just like that, summer vacation is over. How can you walk away from your school building one moment, and then in the blink of an eye, you’re back stapling up new paper and counting out school supplies?

A mystery no scientist has ever solved.

How I survive in the heat

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Inland Southern California has an inverse winter. In less temperate areas, like the Midwest where I grew up, you have to spend a lot of time indoors for at least four months a year due to freezing temperatures and snow. In a similar way, inland So Cal has three months in the summer where triple digit days force us into the safety of our airconditioned homes.

For Californians, who consider being outside our “family room” and “dining room,” this can seem very confining. Fortunately, we can escape to the beach or the mountains. But braving the traffic on the freeways is not always appealing.

My escape is our swimming pool. As an elementary teacher, I have summers off and can enjoy it daily. Our pool is a refuge after errands and housework. A planning room for my husband and me. A playground for our grandkids. A hangout for friends and relatives. When my kids were young, we would roll out our big screen TV outside the back door and watch movies from the pool in the evening.

When we get a string of days over 100 degrees, you’ll find me floating on my lounge chair, ice tea in the cupholder, and my waterproof Kindle in my hand. That’s how I spend my “winter.”