Every year on the last day of school he’d stop on the bridge over the creek on his walk home, pop open all his three-hole binders, and dump and shake all his pen-scrawled notes and sticker-covered tests into the bubbling rapids below. Somehow the sight of the sheets soaking up and smearing the ink and then drowning and drifting away gave him the therapeutic closure he needed before summer officially began.
Although we didn’t all celebrate by polluting local waterways, the day always had so much meaning.
I don’t know about you but our school board didn’t spring for air-conditioning, figuring we could make it through a few hot weeks before summer break. So as the cold winter thawed into muggy summer days, the heat just sank and stank, despite pleading windows propped open with dog-eared textbooks and plastic yellow rulers.
As that last day approached, a certain smell drifted from all the backpacks, lockers, and gym closets, too. It was a musty combination of dodgeball rubber, cheap floor polish, and acne medication, complemented by a fine sprinkling of locker mold.
But that heat sure did bring some excitement, too.
Calendar days flipped by and teachers taught with a little more pep, homework assignments got lighter, and projects deadlines came and went. Tank tops came out as flip-flops clip-clopped up and down the hallway — with everybody locking eyes, smiling big smiles, and waiting patiently for that beautiful last day to finally come.
And then one day … it did.
And it sure whipped by in a whirlwind.
Maybe your teacher brought a batch of homemade brownies in a heavy glass tray and everybody sliced a square with a plastic knife while passing around yearbooks and watching a movie with no educational value whatsoever.
Maybe you were graduating and spent the afternoon kicking pebbles in the parking lot while chatting about all the moments you were going to miss as you moved on. There was your first cigarette, The Tuba Incident, and the hallway drama of prom season.
Making plans for pool parties, summer birthdays, and sleeping in every morning gives you a great rush and as you walk home with that pen-scratched yearbook in your light and baggy backpack, you curl your lips into a tight smile and stare way off into the distances… thinking tall thoughts … and dreaming big dreams … to fill those beautifully wide open spaces.