Summer's Long Days Bring Bittersweet Solace
'And so, on this last day, I wish all of you a safe and happy summer. May you return to school renewed, refreshed, and ready for another profitable school year."
The final words of our principal, Mr. McDowell, drew my attention back into the upstairs assembly room of Woodrow Wilson Junior High - away from the emerald honeysuckle leaves curling outside the window near my seat, and the red and violet flame of a humming bird.
Applause rippled, swelled, subsided. Mr. McDowell bowed and remained standing. Our singing teacher, Miss Maybury, rose and faced us. She rapped once on the back of her chair with her baton. We stood up to sing "America the Beautiful."
Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
I glanced outside again. Whoops! There went the needle-beak into the heart of the blossom. Humming-birds always reminded me of dragonflies. Those brilliant flashes and that ominous whir. I remembered the dragonflies dipping into the pond where I had played in other summers with my kid brother, Eddie. Maybe we could go back there this summer....
For amber waves of grain. For purple mountains majesty
I loved singing. Some of my happiest times were spent in music class. We got to sing for an hour every Friday. But that was over for the summer.
It was the last day of school. Tomorrow the long vacation would begin. Three months of crackling dry heat, cloudless skies, and streets sticky with soft tar. Three months of craft classes, swimming, and selling lemonade with my brothers, Eddie and David. Three months of pure heaven!
And yet, there was a cloud hovering over my idyllic horizon. Faintly, off there somewhere, was the knowledge that we were going to move in the fall. By this time next year I would be going to a different home, from a different school. I still hadn't gotten used to the idea.
In my home room I collected my things from my desk and stuffed them into a large canvas book bag. "Good-bye, Mrs. Davis. I hope you enjoy your vacation."
"Good-bye, Betsy. We'll be seeing you in the fall, won't we?" Mrs. Davis always talked as if she represented the entire school staff. As well as being my home room teacher, she taught seventh-grade English. She had been a good friend ever since last January, when I arrived at Wilson from Doran Elementary. She had helped me to make the difficult adjustment to this larger school and made me feel comfortable in my new surroundings. She also encouraged my writing and storytelling endeavors. I was going to miss her. I opened my mouth to tell her so, but words failed me. I stood there, eyes filling with tears, unable to say anything.
I felt her arm around my shoulder. "There, there, child, what is it?"
I leaned against her side, sniffling. "Oh Mrs. Davis, we're moving at the end of summer. I won't be coming back to Wilson. I won't be seeing you again. It's not fair! Now I'll have to start all over again at a new school and I won't know the teachers, or the kids, or where my rooms are...."
She patted my shoulder as I went on: "Jean - she's my big sister - has to start at the university in Westwood in September."
"Come, Betsy, let's sit down and talk about this." She led me to the first row of seats. We sat, side by side. She reached over and gave my arm a gentle squeeze.
"We all must face changes, my dear. But I'm so sorry to learn that you're leaving us. Your class will miss you; and so will I."
I found a handkerchief in my pocket and blew my nose.
"Your sister must have her chance at a fine education," she continued, her kind round face turned toward me, full of tenderness.
"I know that it's hard being young and having no control over important decisions that affect your life. But your parents are doing the right thing, I'm sure."
She patted my hand. "Keep on making up your stories, Betsy, and write them down when you can."
She arose and went to her desk. From a drawer she took out a new red writing tablet and a wooden pencil box, and handed them to me. "Maybe these will help you."
I gasped. I caressed the smooth cover of the tablet and slid open the top of the shiny pencil box, revealing the unsharpened pencils within. I had never had a new pencil box before. I wanted to thank her, but again I couldn't speak. I hugged her instead. She continued, "Have a lovely summer, dear. And after you've moved, if you ever get back to Glendale - and I'm sure you will - please stop by to see us!"
I fumbled my gifts into my bag, blinking back my tears. "Oh," I gasped. "Oh, thank you, Mrs. Davis. I will. I promise!"
Once outside, I glanced quickly around, then rubbed my sleeve over my eyes. Other boys and girls were pouring out of the big front door, laughing and joking. Some started walking away in pairs, others dashed to mothers waiting in cars. From halfway down the block I could hear a boy shouting: "No more school. No more books. No more teacher's crabby looks!"
I laughed out loud at the silly jingle. Suddenly, I felt a great bubble of joy rise up inside me. It seemed to burst in my chest and spread through my whole body. I was free for the summer! I pushed back all thoughts of moving away in the fall, of a new school, new teachers, and new classmates. None of that would happen for a long time. I skipped down the front steps and out and started toward home.