Saturday, September 9, 2017

Looking back over the summer

     Asking a child to tell you what he did over his summer vacation is a vague question, and ranks second only on the dumbness meter to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
      A youngster mentally freezes. Thanks to you, he’s put on the spot. Most likely he will reply, “nothing much.”
     That’s more than sufficient for Twitter, but not a face-to-face discussion of any substance. You repeatedly grumble about children doomed in the 21st century, and this is what you receive in return. Everyone stands in awkward silence and there will be not a single thing gained except possibly a bruised ego.
     On the other hand, if a kid is the least bit verbal and has learned the game of playing adults, he will tell you what he thinks you want to hear back. That’s the nature of a child.

     A well-brought up child will dare not answer, “I don’t want to be you when I grow up.”
     As adults you and I respond in a similar fashion.
     Ask me what I have been up to, and nothing, and I mean nothing, comes to the top of my mind. It sounds lame. Or, I might tell you stuff that is not the least bit of importance in my books and keep the big things tucked away.
     With children, learn to be more skilled in your questioning and work up to it gradually. Besides, a kid will connect much faster with an adult who is curious about him as a person, or at least he will look away from his gadget for a mere second pretending to be on the same planet as you.
     Then again, you and I have big plans for the summer months, and half of those ideas never work out probably for the best, too. One or two surprises take up your time and set you off in different directions. I look at that as a win-win and go with the flow summer. It all balances in the end scheme anyhow.

     I never did get the back shed straightened out. That had been on my books as a summer item for months. On frigid days stuck in the house, I would dream of sorting and tossing in my short sleeves. Instead, I did a miraculous job of keeping the two gardens weeded. Boy, am I proud of my efforts, too. A little backbreaking work is good for keeping me limber.
     The trip to Stratford, Ontario never materialized and somehow a trip to New York City took its place. I got to visit with my daughter and the timing was perfect for a mother-daughter bonding.
     I did connect with a couple close friends living in other parts of the country thanks to them reaching out, and we had chances for skipping down memory lane. Both occasions were spur of the moment, too, and I dropped everything I perceived might be more important and ran with the fun.
     My husband did orchestrate the completion of our front patio with the landscaper as planned instead of pruning the trees. There’s a more appropriate time for that chore in the fall.
     When I was growing up, the first day of a new grade the teacher would write the question on the blackboard in proper handwriting and expect students to write a composition of a specific number of words while the clock ticked away. I remember resisting. First of all I thought to myself, it is none of a teacher’s business what I did over my summer vacation, and secondly, what I did in my free time shouldn’t be evaluated by anyone else’s standards.

      My stock answer when a grown up would ask me what I did over my summer vacation would be to say that I was reading through the alphabet in the public library and collecting sea glass on the beach. That seemed to satisfy them that I was being productive.
     Adults feel kids have to account for activities and any thing less than that is laziness. I totally disagree.

     I wonder if I said that I spent hours on the beach daydreaming what they would think of me? Truthfully, that was what I did a lot of the time. It was my way of stirring up the creative juices. I didn’t understand its purpose then. There was no way I was sharing that with others, though, and at the time I didn’t know any fulltime writers other than the elderly gentleman down the street who passed the hours scribbling sci-fi stories in a notebook that had complicated interwoven plots leading nowhere for my taste. Apparently, neither did any publisher.
     Believe it or not, when it came my turn to start teaching, it was still a popular opening day activity, and let me add, an easy out.

     I refused to acquiesce. I would ask instead for students to write in their journals:  Tell me what you want me to know about you so I will be able to help you have a successful year.
     Perhaps, I was fighting off something that held me back myself in the classroom and I wasn’t going to subject another generation to the torture. Oh, I could write as a kid. I kept those diaries filled at home and the neighborhood newspaper, too.  It wasn’t in school under the watchful eye of a grammatical perfectionist, though, that I ever would shine.
     Looking back over the summer, despite the rain and clouds more frequently than not, it was a fine season. Let’ leave it at that.