We put up pickles instead

IT'S a tradition. On the first day of school each year, every student in the world, more or less, has to produce a drawing or composition entitled, ``What I Did This Summer.'' ``Just once,'' complained our 13-year-old, ``couldn't they ask us what we didn't do? I'd have the longest composition in the class.''

How true. If our family doesn't do less than any other in the whole USA, we're certainly tied for the honor. I find it rather amazing that, despite seven nagging kids, we've managed to go nowhere and do nothing for nearly 20 summers.

Not that we don't make marvelous plans each spring. Yippee and hooray! We're going to visit an amusement park, see some ball games, take a boat ride! Oh, boy, are we going to have fun! Then, as the first Back-to-School sale appears, we realize that, once again, we blew it. In fact, we're lucky if we managed to squeeze a trip to the rootbeer stand in between our frenzied bouts of doing nothing.

Last year, our fourth grader's drawing featured him participating in what must have been the high point of his vacation: swatting a fly. What did his teacher say? She said, ``Kevin, your tennis ball looks like a little black dot.'' The mortified child, surrounded by art works depicting airplanes, tents, mountains, and water skis, obediently changed the fly into a ball, and no one was the wiser.

Usually, the only one in the family who gets around at all is our daughter who mows the lawn once a week. That, along with sitting there watching it grow back again, is not exactly the type of summer adventure the teacher has in mind; especially when everyone else in the class has been to Colorado or Disney World or some other nifty place.

Dad bought a new economy car last May and bragged about the terrific mileage it was going to get. I can't say we didn't save a bundle leaving it in the garage all summer, but there must be a better way. It has reclining bucket seats which (they tell me) are oh, so comfortable on long trips, but it's not much fun for a grownup woman to sneak into the garage, slip behind the wheel, and go ``Vroom-vroom-vroom!'' as the kids do.

This year, Kevin graduated from a drawing to a composition and found it even harder to write about nothing than to draw it. ``So I wrote about the day we almost went to the zoo,'' he said. ``I told how Dad rented a Rototiller for just one hour that morning, and while Mom was holding the cucumber vines out of the way she noticed they were loaded, so she said, `My oh my, look at all these cucumbers. They'll be too big tomorrow. Now we'll have to stay home and make pickles while they're fresh.'

``My brother suggested taking all the cucumbers to the zoo and feeding the animals. He doesn't give up as easy as the rest of us. All day long, every time someone started to complain about not going to the zoo, Mom said, `If you don't pipe down, you can stand over this hot, steamy canner instead of washing cucumbers in that nice cool water, and when you have time, run out to the garden and pick some more dill.'

``That was the day we didn't go to the zoo. I almost wrote about when we didn't go to the circus, but it makes me so mad I hate to even think about it.''

I remembered. We were really looking forward to that circus, and we all piled into the car, just knowing it wouldn't start or something. It started, all right, but the ``or something'' turned out to be Uncle Charlie and his brood, who chose that very moment to turn into our driveway pulling a camper. For three weeks the camper dominated the front yard, while his kids spilled over into our beds and refrigerator. The bathroom was available by appointment only, between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m.

Meanwhile I cooked -- earning a medal in the Aunt Jemima Olympics for frying 118 pancakes one Saturday morning. Our daughter got a lot of valuable experience babysitting without charge. All the while, our guests regaled us with tales of their travels to Canada, California, Florida, and Grand Canyon. ``Did somebody shoot the canyon?'' asked our youngest. Poor, deprived little fellow.

``Don't worry,'' I told the kids last night, ``we're going to start planning right now, and next summer we'll do every single thing we intended to do this summer, last summer, the summer before that. . . . ''

``But Mom,'' interrupted our sophomore, ``school's only out for three months.''

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