Monday, May 28, 2007

Starting those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days

It may not be officially summer yet, according to the calendar. The first day of summer is June 21. But the summer season is underway for all practical purposes. Memorial Day is the traditional beginning of the summer season.

Schools let out for the summer sometime around Memorial Day weekend. It is the time when more campers and motor homes are seen on the highways. One telling sign of summer is the steep increase in the price of gasoline as families take to the roads and skies on their summer vacation journeys.

For me, Memorial Day often evokes memories of Kentucky. When I was young, my mom and my Aunt Ruby would spend hours in the kitchen on the days leading up to Memorial Day. They were not cooking; they were creating artificial flowers out of crepe paper and wax.

Nobody went to the store or the flower shop to buy expensive wreathes or bouquets to decorate the graves of our family members who had passed on. Mom and my aunt gave it the personal touch. Then, on the holiday itself, we would climb in the car for the long trip down to Columbia, Ky.

My aunt always called the holiday Decoration Day. That was the old name for it. Its primary focus was honoring the nation’s war dead. When it changed to Memorial Day, the focus shifted to include honoring anyone who had died, making it more of a family observance.

In recent years, the family gathering place has moved from Kentucky to Rest Haven Cemetery in Edinburgh. Aunt Ruby is buried there, as are other family members including my father and my wife, Donna.

But after our remembrances, we still do what many other families do on Memorial Day Weekend: We gather in the back yard and have a barbecue, weather permitting. Then, I look forward to a long summer vacation away from my 8th graders.

I had a three-day weekend this week, as most people did. Now I’m enduring the final four days before summer break. I can’t resist teasing some of my brothers that my three-day weekend is over, but in a few days, I’ll have a two-and-a-half month weekend.

I often get asked if I am going to teach summer school or get a part-time job somewhere. My reply is that I don’t do either, because that would defeat one of the major perks of being a teacher: Time off.

I don’t do a lot of working over the summer. Sometimes I take care of some long-overdue household chores, but that’s about it. I do like going on vacation, but only by ground transportation. This year, I’m considering taking the train somewhere. I’ve never done that.

I didn’t inherit a compulsion to work from my mother. She’s been retired for several years but rarely has a day off. I, on the other hand, sometimes think I was born to be retired.

But in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy my summers off. They tend to go by far too quickly these days.

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