Summer break is upon us, at least here in the area I call my little swath of the Midwest. Kids in traditional schools are done for the summer. So are the teachers, many of them friends of mine from my substitute teaching days.
It’s been a tough year for both students and teachers alike. I have heard from many that they are ecstatic to be having this much needed break.
Since I am a writer, I reflect on my past from time to time. I spend time examining things that have come to light in my mind as I turn over the memories that are often tucked away in the corners of my brain. Lately, I have been remembering my own summer breaks, the ones I had as a student and the ones I have had as a substitute teacher.
When I was very young, my summer breaks were filled with travels with my parents. My dad, as I mention in my biography, was an officer in the Marine Corps when I was young, so when he had time off, we would camp a great deal. We also spent time traveling from one assignment to the next via camp grounds, seeing the sights as we criss-crossed the country in whatever vehicle my parents owned at the time. I remember seeing many sights around the United States as we traveled and have fond memories of reading in the back seat as miles flew by. I learned my multiplication tables by counting to 100 by twos, threes, fours and fives as a youngster. I often wrote stories as the country seemed to fly by in the car windows. Since this was before handheld game consoles, personal electronics and even entertainment systems in cars, I learned how to amuse myself with reading and writing and mental games.
As I got older, I also got to spend more and more time at home in the summers, often without adult supervision. I learned to read a great deal of things in those days. I remember reading the entire hard-bound dictionary one summer in my middle school years because I could. Part of it was boredom, but part of it was the fact that I was and still am such a geek when it comes to the way words are created.
Then there were the research projects I would do with the old school encyclopedias. Because research seemed to come easily to me, likely owing to the fact that my mom in particular liked to tell me to look stuff up when I asked her a question she didn’t know the answer to, I would indeed look everything up. I think I had read every single one of the two sets of old encyclopedias my parents owned by the time I was in my third year of high school. I also had read almost all of the books the family owned. Summer was just as much a time for reading for me as the school year was. Maybe even more so, since I seemed to have some extra time. And of course, I spent a great deal of time outside cloud watching and imagining my adventures.
Of course, as I got older, the summers filled with other things. There were trips to Colorado and Mexico with my church youth groups. There were day trips to the beach and camping trips in the desert. There were the summer jobs I held, since I taught swimming and babysat a great deal. And then, eventually, I entered the life of an adult.
Until just a few years ago, I had “summer breaks” consisting of only working part-time at one job and then babysitting for friends who worked all summer. I also spent three summers working at a day camp for elementary children. I spent my summers going on field trips I didn’t have to pay for and playing games and doing crafts. But even that, after awhile, was not the kind of stability job-wise that I needed, so I let it go.
These days, I don’t get a summer break. I work all summer, since that’s the way of the adult world, so summers fly by just as fast as school years do for me. I am planning a road-trip vacation with the other half for later this summer, when we both have some free time, so I will have some feeling of a break. But summer breaks filled with nothing but boredom and reading and research are a thing of the past for me, for now. Eventually, I may get back to those kind of days.
Until then, I will enjoy my summers regardless. There are nights to spend outside in my camp chair watching the sun set and the fireflies come out. There are lunch breaks to enjoy in the shade instead of inside a building. There’s summer storms to watch cross the sky and some reading to be done.
And of course, I will write. Like I always have done. Like I think I always will do. Because, that’s my magic, the stories I write. I wrap into them the memories I have made and the things I still imagine and observe. Because, even as small as my little flights of fancy are, they are part of any break. And that there is how I continue to write my own story.
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And as always, #writeyourownstory