The Adult Promise of More Stolen Summer Days
It is that time of the year again when the schoolchildren are sent back to the grind of the Old Routine against their will as summer marches on for at least two more weeks. Those were not pleasant days in my memories of educational servitude for about eighteen years. It was common to look longingly outside in which the Fahrenheit surpassed degrees. The pool season could be milked out for a while longer. A memory of a movie called, “Hope and Glory” stands out in my mind so hauntingly that it practically seems like a dream. It is an epic wartime film that came out in the 1980s and shows a small boy who sees his neighborhood turned into an endless playground while scaling the rubble of bomb-ravaged buildings with his chums. The day comes when he is forced to return to the prison of his school after a perfect summer he wants to hold onto for dear life. Immediately after being driven to the building by his curmudgeon grandfather, he discovers the building engulfed in flames as his fellow students are merrily throwing books into the inferno. It turns out that a stray bomb was dropped by a Nazi plane, which accidentally hits the school. The English boy is not thinking about the horrors of war or the drastic inconvenience caused to the teachers now their livelihoods are destroyed for a while. The boy is just in the throes of euphoria knowing that “the prison” has been destroyed by a miracle. Not by an Axis of Evil that was responsible for incalculable suffering. But a true miracle straight from God himself. As the adult narrator says at the end of the movie while reflecting upon his eventful childhood:
In all my life nothing ever quite matched the perfect joy of that moment. My school lay in ruins, the river beckoned with the promise of stolen days.
- 1987 film “Hope and Glory”
Nothing like that ever happened during my childhood, just so you know. There was no act of God; teachers’ strike; tornado; flood; power outage; or a freakish, once-in-a-lifetime snow blizzard at the beginning of September to augment the summer paradise. The bus driver never went on an all-night bender and slept past ten o’clock in the morning. I would wait at the middle school bus stop until eleven a.m. knowing the bus would not be coming and would remain at the stop long after all of the other kids went home to tell their families that the bus never showed up. By the time I finally returned home pretending that I waited at the bus stop by exaggerating my lack of common sense, hopefully so much time would have passed that my mother and father would realize there is no point in driving me to school for just a couple of hours. The closest I came to a slight extension of summer is when I had an illness the beginning of first grade and squeaked in just one more day of watching morning cartoons while dealing with a mild fever. As a child, I usually despised the first Wednesday after Labor Day considering it meant there would be another transition. It would be another chance to make a disastrous first impression or have the other students remember my antics from years past. There would be another teacher to get used to and damage to undo after a rough first month of disrupting the class with creative antics. By the time everything became hunky dory around the start of May, it would be time to start over on a clean, but scratched, slate. I have not returned to any form of educational structure since May 2004. The main reason is due to several projects, although the deeper reason could be those haunting memories from those childhood days of yore and yesteryear.
The whole point of this slightly bitter and nostalgic stream of consciousness is how fortunate I am that things are better. In the words of Amanda Byrne from one of her over-the-top skits on the Amanda Show in which she played a video store owner in which every famous film title sold was merely a pathetic and grotesque recreation of her performance with the co-owner… “Everything is MUUUCCCHHH better. There are no more dramatic transitions every single year. Staff come and go at my job where I have been for six years, but there is no dramatic reshuffling of staff every single beginning of September. Things have stayed more the same for the better part of the decade. Sometimes change is necessary, although it is never healthy when it seems relentless. The best that teachers can do is to keep trying anything and everything to make their students have as smooth of a time as possible each year as to not fearing the following year. Circumstances are never going to be perfect, but try to also squash out bullying like a Cockroach on Caffeine even though some benign teasing may forever be a part of childhood. Let youths know and also give them the reassurance that in this new school year everything will be fine just like it was the year before and the year before that.
Being an adult is no walk in the park, and sometimes I yearn for the comfort of the 1990s where I also fantasize about investing my meager life savings in the piggy bank within Amazon stock. But then I realize this time of the year induced many bouts of sadness due to living with misunderstood Asperger’s syndrome. There are things I have to do as an adult such as going to various appointments and attending to work responsibilities, but the rest of the time is my own. There is freedom to take a side trip to the beach, walk in the park until dusk without being yelled at for making everybody panic that I was not home on time, and other aspects of liberation I could not have anticipated so early into childhood. There is safety and comfort in my career. I no longer feel just like an accident waiting to happen with disaster just being around the corner. Looking back, I wonder if it could have been a nice therapeutic technique to pretend to be someone else just like Daniel Hilllard became better as Mrs. Doubtfire in the 1996 comedy classic. But now I feel a lot more secure as just myself (the majority of the time), and may indulge the long walks in the park without making anyone panic or being chained to a flurry of activities that swept me up without fail after the first Wednesday subsequent to Labor Day!