Posts Tagged ‘last day of school’

While last week’s calendar entry practically erupted with joy, I can’t look at this week’s without feeling a little bit sad.

June 25, 1975

It’s awfully strange — kind of Charlie Brownish —  to look at the words “LAST DAY OF SCHOOL” and feel melancholy. Took me a while to figure out why, and then it dawned on me.

My grandparents hadn’t had a child in the Stamford schools for the better part of a decade in 1975. Neither of them worked in a school, or had any other direct connection to the educational system. The last day of school would have occasioned no change at all in their everyday routines.

I theorize, then, that my grandfather put that up as a reminder of the days when he had kids in school. Sort of an attempt, either conscious or unconscious, to recapture a touch of those days when the house was bustling with noise and energy and activity.

I’ve written before about certain events that bring to mind the passing of time and the approach of old age. The arrival of an empty nest seems to me to be another of those kinds of milestones.

And unlike some events that come once and then pass (such as signing up for Social Security benefits), the empty nest is a constant reminder of time past, always there whenever an old family photo or a forgotten graduation gown in the spare closet brings the old days to mind.

My grandparents weren’t the sort (I don’t think) to invite the next generation of neighborhood youngsters into their yard for cookies and roughhousing. Instead, their way of dealing with the void would have been more subtle — like a note on the calendar that might bring back memories of the last day of school, and remind them that other households all over Stamford were awash in joyous childhood energy, and that not everything, everywhere, was a quiet dinner and a slowly arriving dusk.

(I worked as a newspaper reporter for a dozen years, and sometimes on election nights and other major news events, I get a touch of the same feeling. There’s no melancholy to it — I left journalism willingly and have neither a desire nor a path to return. But I think of the way the newsroom used to bustle, and the questions shouted from desk to desk, and the taste of takeout pizza, and I think, “Hmm. Other people are doing that now. They’re sitting where I used to sit, tapped into the same bloodstream I used to tap into. They’re probably as young as I used to be, too. I remember that feeling. Hope they’re enjoying it.”)

It’s entirely possible that I’m overthinking this … but I’ve tried to think of other logical explanations for this calendar entry, and I’m coming up dry, for the most part.

If memory serves, my grandfather was not in the habit of marking down the last day of school on his calendar every year. Or, at least, not after his kids grew up. I’m fairly sure, then, that this was not an annual ritual.

My grandparents lived a stone’s throw from an elementary school. I’ve thought that my grandfather’s note might have served as a personal “School’s Out – Drive Safely” reminder, the sort you used to see all the time on bumper stickers. (I haven’t seen one of those bumper stickers in donkey’s years. Where’d they all go?)

It’s also true that my grandfather occasionally wrote some pretty random stuff on his calendar. He might have added the last day of the school year to his calendar for no real reason at all. Or maybe it just happened to catch his fancy as a civic event, the way elections would.

This is another one of those calendar entries I can’t definitively explain. The logic is beyond my recapturing, like the final slam of a battered locker door and the giddy conversations on a long-ago school bus.

I have some ideas, though.

Coda: For those keeping track on their own calendars, Stamford’s public schools are slated to let out this year on Friday, June 24. School’s out. Drive safely.

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This week, I feature a rare entry in which my grandfather’s kids seize control of his calendar, and the joyous cries of children are heard throughout the land.

June 20, 1961

I could try to get all heavy and analytical on this one. But really: A high school graduation and a last day of school, on the same day? Even after 50 years, nothing says it better than “WOPEE.”

(My aunt’s variation on “Whoopee” owes more to teenage exuberance than Merriam-Webster. But that’s OK. No one’s grading.)

Whatever the graduation speakers of the Stamford High Class of ’61 said that day is completely lost on my dad now. He doesn’t remember much about his graduation, except that he escorted a “very nice and popular” girl into the ceremony at her request, and then ditched her afterwards to spend time with his girlfriend. (What little I know about how to impress women was not learned from my father. Thankfully, the University of Barry White has a liberal enrollment policy.)

One of my dad’s fellow graduates, Eleanor Roberts (later Eleanor Lewis), would later become chief counsel for International Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Another, Charles Strauss, became CEO of Unilever United States. As for my dad, thirty-odd years in management at Eastman Kodak was waiting … not that he knew that at the time, of course.

In the fall of 1961, my father headed off to college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. History does not record whether my aunt’s “WOPEE” was motivated by the last day of school, or by the giddy prospect of getting her older brother out of the house.

My own high school graduation came almost exactly 30 years after my dad’s, and I don’t remember what my speakers said either, except that one of them held up actor-director Kevin Costner — then making interminable films like “Dances with Wolves” — as an example of the sort of individualist thinker we should all aspire to be. Hopefully my dad’s class got better advice than mine did.

(Actually, I think it would be mildly interesting to read a sampling of high school graduation speeches from 1961, 1991 and today, just to see how they differ — or if they differ — in tone and approach. I don’t know how actively I’ll pursue that thought, though.)

After my graduation, most likely I hung out with my girlfriend, which was the same thing my dad had done 30 years before. Some things never change, I suppose.

Unlike my dad, I am planning to skip my 20th reunion this year in favor of some splendid isolation in the Finger Lakes. My dad, having attended his 20th and 40th, is going this year to his 50th. Maybe if I make it that far, I’ll think about going.

It’s school’s-out season once again as I write this. As they break for summer — and sometimes forever — high school students across America are posting messages of triumph and celebration in their yearbooks, on their Facebook pages and even on their cars.

Do any of them capture the moment quite like “WOPEE”? Doubt it.

Next week: School’s out, from a different perspective. If that don’t suit’cha, that’s a drag.

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