Monday, August 1, 2011

Summertime Blues

Summer is my favorite season – always has been. And for most of my youth, my parents put great effort into trying to ruin my summers.... every year they always sent me to Summer School.

I recall when I was growing up people often telling me I was “smart”. That was nice to hear but I was never sure what they were talking about? School was difficult for me; math in particular was always problematic. English was strange as well; I couldn’t figure out why we needed to spend so much time “diagramming sentences”. Who cares what the difference is between an adjective and an adverb is if you can use them correctly. [Those of you among my followers, who are professional writers, please cut me some slack here.]

In either case, I was a mediocre student during most of my school career, grade school and middle school in particular. As a result of my poor grades, my parents figure the best remedy for my poor grades was that I simply I needed MORE school. So each year I was forced to attend Summer School.

I viewed Summer School as punishment by my parents for not doing well in regular school. Summer School was horrible. For one thing NONE of my friends ever had to go to Summer School. So while they were out having fun, I was stuck in “school”. Summer School only ran half-day, so we were out of there by noon. But by the time I got home my friends were long gone who-knows-where! I spent many of my afternoons alone.

My parents were easily swayed by the propaganda about how much “fun” Summer School was going to be. Pictures on the brochure showed kids at the swimming pool, kids jumping on the trampoline. Bulls#*t -- The trampoline was only brought out ONCE; by the time the my turn in line came around the period was over and it was time to head back to math class. I never did get my 2-minutes of trampoline time. Oh and the pool – it was drained every summer for maintenance.

But finally Summer School term would end and I would luxuriate in the brief period before the regular term started up again. Finally I could ride bikes and hang with my buddies. But soon the “Back to School” ads would air on TV reminding me of the impending return to regular school.

By the time I was in High School my parents had stopped sending me to Summer School – probably because it didn’t exist for high schoolers. Most of my friends by then had summer jobs, I had one as well; picking prunes in Northern California. We worked in the mornings, spent the heat of the day swimming in the Russian River, and then we worked again in the cool of the evening. I loved it.

My grades in high school were all over the chart. I got “A’s in Architecture and Physical Education. My PE grade was an enigma to me as I was always the smallest guy in class and sucked at performing any sport except track. I think they gave me “A's” either for my effort... or more likely everyone got an A. I flunked Algebra three times in a row. But I did great in the sciences, Biology in particular.

It was expected in my family that I would go to college. But my GPA was pretty weak. At that time the Vietnam War was ramping up and lots of young guys my age were going into the military. On my 18th birthday I was obligated to visit the US Post Office to register for the Selective Service. It became very clear that if I didn’t get into college, and pronto, I would likely be invited by Uncle Sam to take an all-expenses-paid visit to exotic Southeast Asia.

College took on a new meaning for me – it served as my primarily deferment from being drafted into the Army. My grades were still mediocre but good enough to keep me in school and out of the Army. During those college summers I worked a clerical job for Greyhound Bus Lines. As I would sit at a desk surrounded by inane clerical people for 8 hours a day, I would reminisce about how much I missed getting out at noon back when I was going to Summer School.

I was never drafted.


DJan said...

Interesting how we are shaped during our youth to be some semblance of who we are today. I had summer jobs but they were really lame, like working for a "jeweler" pasting plastic jewelry together so he could sell them. And of course, babysitting... I remember people who had lots of cookies and ice cream which I would eat until I was sick after the kids when to bed.

secret agent woman said...

As soon as I hit 16 I got "real" jobs (fast food, mostly), but also as a younger kid would rake pinestraw and wash cars and babysit for extra money. But I'm suddenly thankful that summer school was never required.

Paul said...

I never went to summer school Robert. I made good grades and tried not to attract attention to myself. Sports saved my arse. I was good at baseball and football. I was fortunate to have a good Junior and Senior English teacher. I discovered books especially poetry. C'est la vie. I was never drafted eoiher....

Stinkypaw said...

Never had summer school because I was good in school, which brought on other problems (bullies don't like the kids with good grades). Always worked, my folks had a convenience store, so I had to. Summertime for me, meant I could sleep in and I could spend the whole day playing outside!

adrielleroyale said...

I have always love summer too and can't imagine having to spend them in school!! :( We used to go out to my grandma's every summer for several weeks where we would help work in the yard till lunch time and then swim in the lake the rest of the day away. I wish I could do that now as an adult! Guess I should have been a teacher or something lol :)

Kay Dennison said...

I think you were pretty typical of our age and era. I remember well the guys in college sweating grades so they wouldn't get drafted. It was an insane time but not as crazy as today.

Robert the Skeptic said...

DJan I wonder, do kids in High School have summer jobs any more? I would think those minimum wage jobs would be highly sought after today by people needed to feed their families.

SecretAgent I think I would have preferred having some kind of a job than to be sentenced to Summer School. At least I would have earned some spending money.

Paul I had a special "advanced" biology class in high school that I loved. I always did well in English class, though I never did understand diagramming sentences.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Stinky Sounds like you enjoyed the kind of summer I could only dream of.

Adrielle We had one week each summer where (when I wasn't in summer school) we would drive down to Sanat Monica and visit my aunt and uncle who had a swimming pool in their back yard. I would swim all day. But at night, the smog would make my lungs hurt.

Kay Yeah it makes me wonder how much public support there would be for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars if we were not an all-volunteer Army and were sending draftees there instead?

Antares Cryptos said...

The grass is always greener;)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Cryptos It indeed often appears to us that the number of chlorophyll molecules appear more densely packed in various species of fescue when access to it is impeded by some manner of hindrance.

Sightings said...

I did summer school one year -- took typing and driver's ed. Two practical and useful courses, but I agree, kinda robs the summer of that special magical quality. Best memory I have of a summer job was when I flipped hamburgers at an amusement park -- it was hot, with low pay, but we had a blast!

These days all the kids I know go to work after 9th or 10th grade, doing pretty much the same stuff we did -- life guarding, camp counseling, babysitting, retail, fast food. They're still good kids.

Antares Cryptos said...

Including the passage of time.

Nice one.

Jayne said...

I almost sent my daughter to summer school this summer. Yeah, as punishment, too. The girl is smart in an intuitive way, street smart, too darn smart for her own good-- but she could care less about school or her grades.

Really, there isn't much of a summer school program around here. So she got lucky, as I didn't push it. But she's going to get a summer job as soon as she legally can!

One can hang out only for so long. ;)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Sightings I see a lot of drivers-ed during the summer. I would have much preferred to have had a summer job than go to summer school. It seemed like such a waste of time... and it didn't seem to do anything to improve my grades.

Cryptos Time... yes, summers that I will never recapture.

Jayne That's a tough one, wonder if she would just "cut" summer school classes anyway? I think there is value in summer jobs, though... and probably on some level a sense of pride in earning your own dough, and realizing what you have to do to earn it.

Jayne said...

Robert- My husband and I were out to dinner tonight and were noticing a boy, about our daughter's age, clearing the tables. We both looked at each other and said, Lu should get a job like that. Making her own money would certainly give her much to be proud about. And she needs to keep busy.

She'd never cut school, though. Strangely, the girl is rather conservative!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Jayne There is a lot to be gained from young people learning from real experience; they often have an idealized view of what being an "adult" is about.

Our son wanted to move out the moment he turned 18, though he was still in high school. We thought it would be a good life lesson. He and his buddies rented a house together. Soon he was dealing with his roomies not doing the dishes, not cleaning the toilet and slacking on their share of the rent - It really turned out to be a good experience for him early in life. Kids complain about their lack of "freedom" under parental care; they soon realize they were never so "free" as when their parents provided their living needs.