The mad summer scramble

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Across this town there is a whiff of anticipation in the air. Days on the calendar are being marked off, and the hands of the clock slowly tick around the dial. Yes, the end of the school year is fast approaching.

Schools around this fair town of ours are full of two kinds of folks who just can’t wait for the very last day: students and the teachers who teach them. Depending on who you talk to, it’s a toss-up as to who’s looking forward to time away from the classroom the most. Either way, both of them feel exactly the same. They’re about to be set free for the long summer break.

But there are always two sides to every coin. A yin to every yang. There’re folks out there who are dreading the long summer months: the parents of those kids soon to be released from school. If asked, parents will say the summer break isn’t a break at all — at least not for them. Instead of a time of relaxation, for them it is months and months of hard work.

Mountains of laundry will have to be climbed. Summertime kids wear at least three outfits each day – just ask most any mom out there. Meals have to either be fixed three times a day, or fixings have to be made available to the hungry horde of locusts masquerading as young boys. That means hours of shopping for food and specialty food for that picky eater.

At the end of every long summer’s day, worn-out parents wade through the wreckage of what used to be an otherwise organized home. (Amazing how much easier it is to keep a house clean when kids spend all day in school and not lying around bored.)

Too tired to pick up one more dirty sock, discarded juice box, or half-eaten snack, parents finally reach the haven of their bedrooms looking for that elusive moment of peace and quiet with each other. It’s a moment that doesn’t arrive. After all, this is summer break for kids, not parents.

All is not lost. Salvation for the summer parent is still available. Let the mad scramble to sign up for camps and swim, tennis, horseback riding or golf lessons begin!

Unfortunately, growing up on Flamingo Street we didn’t have tennis or golf courses nearby, and the only four-legged animal we could ride on Flamingo was Matilda. Matilda was the mule that plowed the farm down the street so Dad didn’t see any reason to pay for horse-riding lessons.

Dad didn’t want to pay for anybody to teach us how to swim either. He taught us how to that first summer we spent on Flamingo. Just above the swamp in our backyard lay a huge fishing lake. After taking us out on the lake in a small rowboat, Dad tossed us in and said, “Start swimming,” before heading back to shore.

For the seven years we lived on Flamingo, the only break our parents got during the summer was the week we all were shipped off to church camp. Not just me, all the kids living on Flamingo went to the same church camp and loved it.

Why not? It was always way up in the north Georgia mountains, which had some of the biggest and strangest, bugs around — like orange and black caterpillars and dinner plate-sized moths that only live in graveyards.

At camp we learned about God, crafts, swimming, and the correct way to hike in the woods to the 50-foot white wooden cross on the side of the mountain without getting lost. We took showers under waterfalls, ate great Southern food, could stay up as late as we wanted, slept in green army surplus tents – even in the pouring down rain — and our parents were nowhere around.

Being only 5 the first time I attended, I thought I’d already died and gone to Heaven. Only bad thing was there were no televisions, but we didn’t really mind because back then there were only three channels.

The last time I checked, Bubba Hanks’s record for the largest belly flop splash in Revival Lake still stands. Goofy Steve never got hit when we played Dodge the Devil Ball. That is still a camp record too. And I remember Neighbor Thomas told the scariest stories around the campfires at night.

The north Georgia mountains still hosts three different kinds of lightning bugs: ones whose heads light up, ones whose bottoms light up, and the rare ones who have both that light up.

Now that summer break is upon us, The Wife and I are going to do some vacation research. Our granddaughters are too young to spend a week in tents in the north Georgia mountains, but we all still need a break. I think we’ll look into the next best thing: a week-long Disney cruise.

Should be lots of fun. After all, they have a giant duck, mouse, and a goofy dog with long ears roaming the decks. With all of those strange things, I wonder: Think they also have some giant mountain bugs?

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]