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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Glorious June – Dads, Grads, and Summer Vacation!

First appeared on Blogcritics.

g1 Here in New York there is an awareness that comes in June – one that is detectable in the streets. The cool winds of May disappear, and the air is singed with the burn of coming summer. The sun seems stronger, and as we move toward the summer solstice the skin on one’s arms begins to tingle, the poles in subway cars start to sweat, and the days last longer than the nights – it indeed becomes summer in the city.

Besides the change in weather, the inevitable celebration of “grads and dads” comes swooping in with a vengeance. Retailers are only too happy to remind people about these events, bombarding us with all sorts of advertisements. It just so happens that this June my family has six graduations to celebrate – three nieces (college, high school, and 8th grade), one nephew (college), and my own two children (8th grade and Kindergarten). Needless to say, retailers are getting their advertising money’s worth from our family this June.

g4My children attended the same Catholic school this year, and we knew that this June would mean a graduation for both of them. The Kindergarten ceremony came first, with the teachers establishing a lovely stage setting and theme – God’s creation. The children sang and danced their way into the hearts of everyone in the audience (they could have just sat there and we all would swoon anyway), and then they received their diplomas. This is a slightly emotional moment, but also a happy one because my son is moving on and yet staying put in the familiar place.

I sat there and recalled my own Kindergarten graduation – long ago on what seems a planet far away. I had the role of Master of Ceremonies, and I remember saying my line (which I had practiced over and over again before the big show). I went out to center stage, stood in the floodlight, turned to the pianist, and said, “Maestro, if you please.” That happened on a similar hot day in a different Catholic school, but the feeling hadn’t changed after all these years. This time my son’s role was “water” – an important element of the creation story – and had to sing a song, which he practiced as hard as I had practiced my line so long ago.

My daughter’s graduation was more problematic – she is venturing on to a new school and adolescence is in full gear. I don’t know what made me misty eyed more – seeing her in a cap and gown or her looking like a woman in the dress she wore underneath. The ceremony in the church was meaningful and significant – and in the end I wasn’t the only one shedding tears. She and all her classmates hugged, cried, and gathered outside the building for what ostensibly was their last moment together as students of the same school.

I thought of my own 8th grade graduation and remember it happening in the daytime, not in the evening. In keeping with June weather it was a scorching day, and in those days our church had no air conditioning. As large fans buzzed all around us, we stood in heavy caps and gowns with the sweat rolling down our backs. When we got outside I only remembered the hot sunshine and wanting to take that gown off, and the only drops on my face were sweat.

I recall during our last days in school that we sent a sheet of paper around the classroom, and everyone wrote his or her name, address, and phone number on it. That was copied and placed at the back of our yearbook. All these years later I still retain that information, though it is mostly useless as all of us have long moved on to other places; however, it still seems like a connection. These days my daughter and her fellow 8th graders will stay connected much better than we did. They have already texted each other a hundred times since the ceremony, and no doubt will be doing so throughout the summer and in the first days spent in their new high schools in September.

All of this emotional “grad” stuff starts to take a toll on the heart, soul, and wallet. The ceremony draws the inevitable attendance by family members and celebrations afterwards – restaurant owners are glowing in June as well as retailers. Trying to get reservations is difficult (impossible if you don’t book earlier than May), and then there is the gathering, the joy, and the big bill that comes when all the partying is over.

So by the time we get to that third Sunday in June this year – Father’s Day for those of you who don’t know – I am probably going to be wiped out and wishing just to be able to watch the NY Mets game if possible. Still, I know my kids and wife will cook up something for me, and the best part of this day is the homemade cards and gifts that my children present to me. Those will be kept with all the others from holidays and my birthdays in a big box I keep in my closet. By the time we reach that solstice the parties and Father’s Day will be over, but the memories will remain. When all the fuss is over, thoughts will be of good times had and the joy of seeing everyone being happy with our children’s success stories.

g2At this time a walk along the beach is what I will enjoy the most, smelling that sea air that in June is as welcome as a kiss from my kids. Even though the ocean water is still a bit cold, a dip is refreshing and the feeling that summer has arrived will be official.

I will be able to sit under my umbrella, read a book, and take a deep breath. The smell of June will still be in the air, and the whole summer will be before us. In my mind I will hear Alice Cooper singing “School’s Out” and remember that year I graduated from 8th grade and that song was a big hit. I thought that summer would last forever; alas, it went as quickly as the summer of 2015 will probably go, but each June it is the stuff dreams are made of for the kid in all of us – the endless summer. All made possible by June, glorious June!


Photo credits: gearpatrol.com, funcrisp.com

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