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School's Out

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The recently past Memorial Day weekend was a blast, and it brought me back to days gone by -- growing up in the '70s in the suburbs of Chicago.

Sure, I'd heard the threats of beautiful weather that Thursday night, yet instinct and experience left me skeptical. More often that not, Midwest hopes of kicking off the summer with outdoor activities are dashed by Saturday.

When I awoke on Friday morning, I was focused -- I had a heavy morning schedule, including ending a personal competition, launching a big project and beginning another. Everything went well, and by noon, the signs were undeniable. It was drop-dead gorgeous outside; blue-sky sunshine, temps in the seventies, and low, almost no humidity.

After lunch, everything dragged. I was antsy and apparently not alone. Several coworkers, of varying generation, gender and personality, mentioned "holding class outside" -- and that's when it hit me.

I felt like I was waiting for the the final bell on the last day of school when I was 10-years-old.

Apart from Christmas, nothing else came close to the excitement and anticipation of summer vacation. In December, you hoped to obtain one or two coveted things on one special day, and then it was all over. June promised so much more; it's hard to capture the flood of images and emotions...

No school, eating cereal, watching cartoons, jeans/t-shirts/tennies, no school, riding bikes, glove over handle bars, baseball bat in sissy bar, no school, Little League, pickup games, lob-league, fast pitch, running bases, no school, jumping fences, ghosts in the graveyard, flashlight tag, kick the can, lighting bugs, no school, ice cream trucks, corner stores, candy bars, comic books, no school, baseball cards, clothes-pins, popping wheelies, jumping ramps, scraped knees, no school, hoses, sprinklers, pools, diving boards, no school, lakes, picnics, barbeques, no school, punks, bottle rockets, cherry bombs, no school, family vacations, riding in the back seat -- are we there yet?

Freedom.

I didn't mind waking up early when I knew the day was mine. A bowl of cereal and out the door, not to return until lunch time. After a peanut butter and jelly on white bread (or two), back on the Schwinn Sting-Ray until dinner time. During the day, you could cover a lot of distance, and be plenty far away -- no one worried. After dinner, back out until the streetlights came on -- or at least until you noticed they were on, which was never the same thing.

No wonder summers flew by -- it was three months of freedom.

After that flashback, the work day ended, and there were stampedes out the door and close calls in the parking lot. After the brutal winter, everyone was ready for sun. I went out with my friends to enjoy craft beer week, visiting old haunts and new establishments. Wherever we went, everyone seemed happy -- friends, acquaintances, and total strangers.

Not just happy -- school's out for summer happy.

It was a heck of a night. I got home roughly 22 hours after I had left for work that morning. I woke up later than usual the next day, and made it to coffee, couch and TV. I watched a documentary about WWII on PBS. I thought about Memorial Day.

I thought about how as a kid, it's hard to understand or appreciate what you've been given. I thought about how as an adult, it's just as easy to lose sight of what you have. About how there could be no summer breaks without school, and no long weekends without work. How both family and strangers have sacrificed, yet still I complain.

Then I got up, took a shower and resumed my school's out weekend, and enjoyed every second of freedom.

Thanks to all who have sacrificed to provide, and congrats to every dad and grad.

Have a school's out summer.