If I’d been the right age to have experienced those long summer breaks of my childhood, where I’d have two-and-a-half months to recover from the school year, and then been subjected to the horrid year-round-school shift in educational philosophy, I would have screamed bloody murder and been royally pissed off until high-school graduation. Nowadays, students don’t know the difference, but I really feel for those kids who were right at that transition period, completely conscious and aware of the hell that was being imposed upon them. They knew full well they were being robbed of the grand freedom they’d known up to that point.
I imagined first, that employers would be less likely to want to hire and put in any kind of training with teens who wanted and or needed very badly to have summer jobs. The shorter the tenure, the worse the return for the time invested in that training, right? Then, too, I think I’d be less likely to attend summer classes if I knew that would mean being set free for a few days, then voluntarily cutting your vacation short to study again, and then heading right back into the classroom for the start of fall semester. Horrors.
We should all know that this year-round-school philosophy bullshit got birthed when we were in the height of competition with the savage Commies for world domination. Eh, the Russians and the Chinese were working their students like slaves in the salt mines, pumping out science savvy automatons with Henry-Ford-like production line efficiency.
Henry Ford was ours, dammit, and no trigger happy nuke crazed evil Reds were going to get the upper hand on us by appropriating our good old American nose-to-the-grindstone roots for their sinister machinations.
Everyone knows well that the forgetting curve for science, and especially for math, is steep, like it takes a weekend or even less when you’re 15 years old, or even 25 for that matter. Hell, unless you got the number crunching shining, age is irrelevant. We all have the potential to forget how to solve a quadratic equation overnight. So we must keep at it, around the clock, day in, day out, because we will be first in science and first in the ability to one up our satanic Cold War enemies in developing cutting edge weapons of mass destruction.
We don’t need no stinking summers. So bye-bye long lazy months, and hello breaks short enough for us to keep on top of addition and subtraction and thermodynamics.
For folks my age, some of the best educational opportunities we had growing up were afforded us by long summers doing anything but hitting the books. Working various jobs, pursuing hobbies and all manner of avocational interests were prime areas for righteous living over the long summer hiatus.
For me, family vacations were the best time of year except for one thing. They were always too short. My family was not rich by any means, but my mom and dad made it a priority that we experience whatever they could manage to afford to have us experience what the world had to offer, whether it be here on O‘ahu, on the neighbor islands, or off-island.
There is one caveat to this, however. If I’d ever have had kids, I would have waited for the best age to start them off on vacations that were meant to be heavily educational in their own way. For experiences to last at near full benefit, I think age plays huge part.
It’s not that I didn’t love going to the U.S. continent. I did, I’m sure, at the time. Not ever having been in and airplane before, I immediately caught the travel bug, and I’ve never lost that urge to go see new things that was born the instant we touched down in Chicago and headed first to visit my mom’s relatives.
She’d been born and raised in the Windy City, and while she was an only child, she had cousins on her mom’s side with whom she kept in touch. We went to see them, spending a week in the city and in the suburbs, particularly Arlington Heights, where her favorite cousin Arleen lived with her family.
Mission accomplished, we headed by train to Madison, Wisconsin. My mom and dad met at the UW Madison, and of course in their years there they’d made friends with many people. Then it was on to my dad’s insurance convention – he was an agent for Metropolitan Life –
then over to Detroit where we would buy a car and then proceed to Washington D.C., New York, Connecticut, up to Maine, across to Philadelphia, and then all the way over to Wyoming, then Yellowstone, and finally to Los Angeles and Disneyland, every child’s mega-Mecca. A true right of passage for every kid I knew back in Hawai‘i.
Los Angeles was the last stop before heading home, and we were there primarily, Mickey Mouse aside, to visit perhaps my folks’ best friends of all, Frieda and Jimmy Lance, my hānai grandparents, along with their circle of fascinating friends, all of whom had spent their lives working as various sorts of officers in and organizers with a variety of labor unions.
These people were hardcore union men and women. Jimmy, for instance, had been a “Wobblie,” the name by which the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW, were known. He says he himself never blew anything up, but he knew all the people who did.
And that was it. Epic. Amazing. It was a six-week odyssey of U.S. history and culture, and the ties of family and friendship. It was an experiential tidal wave that washed over me, passed me by, and was gone just like Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects. Alas, I was too young to absorb most of it, forget about all of it. I wish I retained so much more. The monuments of D.C., that climb up the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the geological wonders of Yellowstone. So many things including all the family and friends along the way. I can only see these in glimpses of it all now, if at all.
Then there were the summer trips we would take to camp the neighbor islands, discovering the nearby wonder and beauty of our own State. We camped and fished every island, except Ni‘ihau, of course, and some of them twice over the years. The beauty of these trips was that we could load up our car with everything we’d need for the trip and send it to the destination island, picking it up there, and shipping it back when the trip ended.
But above all the summer trips we took, I loved most the trips, albeit brief, that just my dad and I would take, for several summers in a row, the last in 5th-Grade. Maybe this counters my argument that you need long summers to experience great vacations, the brief intensity of an experience being as valuable as a long more mellow one.
Anyway, the last day of school was always a half day. My dad would pick me up and we’d drive to the airport. A short hop away, we’d fly the 30 minutes to Kaua‘i, to Kekaha, in the Waimea District, my dad’s birthplace, where we’d visit all the friends he’s grown up with from early childhood.
These were short stays, maybe four days, where my dad and all his friends would fish, casting from shore with rods, throwing nets, and trolling in a boat one of them owned. I “learned” to drive one weekend. It was actually only steering the jeep of my dad’s friend “Peanut,” sitting there on his lap in great fear that I’d kill us, the two of them laughing their encouragement as I frantically voiced my concern about rolling over a cliffside.
They all had nicknames like that. I found out that my dad’s was Beanpole, he having been so skinny as a kid. Besides Peanut, I do remember the name Goodie. How the other’s earned their monikers I never knew. In most cases, I never knew their true first names, nor did I know most of their last names either.
It was here as well, camping out for night fishing, that I’d see my dad laugh more than he ever did at home. They’d drink beer until the wee hours, long after I’d fallen asleep, and it always amazed me how my dad could speak Pidgin English like a pro, something I never heard from him back home on O‘ahu.
Why those trips stopped after 5th-Grade, I don’t know. I definitely missed them from 6th-Grade on. Maybe my dad thought I’d grown too old to appreciate them anymore. Maybe he believed he had. Whatever the case, I still enjoyed all our summer vacations very much. They are some of the most enduring memories, even if some are only flickering ones, of my childhood.
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Aloha #WriterSunday. Today’s #WritingPrompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece on your site and link back to me, or simply leave it as a comment below. I would love to read it : )