Not an Ordinary Day in June

Lane E. Dooling

© Copyright 2021 by Lane Dooling

Photo of newspaper reports of the fir.

All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

My most cherished day of the year began with a special glow and calm excitement...knowing the day would be wonderful. Yet, it had nothing to do with stockings, a tree or presents! 

For many children, the Christmas season is magical and special with the fragrance of pine and the display of lights along with family traditions. Although I agree wholeheartedly, there was always a special day that came around once a year that had nothing to do with Christmas or any was the first day of summer vacation!

I was eight years old when I became acutely aware of how I felt about the first day of summer vacation – that there was something extra special about the day after the last day of the school year. Over the years, I have tried to pinpoint why this particular day resonated with my much younger self...almost as if I had been under a magical veil of pixie dust that promised a whole day of wonderfulness.

The preamble to this almost dream-like state was when I would leave the school yard of my elementary school on the last day of school. My arms full of stuff to bring home, I would look out at the playground. Kids swarmed around laughing, playing on the jungle gym and chasing each other. I would take a minute to acknowledge that in a day, the school and playground would become very quiet...almost like a summer hibernation except for the occasional teacher doing something in their classroom or a few kids riding their bikes on the blacktop. As my friends and I walked home, I wondered if they “felt it”. Most of the conversation was about things we were going to do, vacation plans and enjoying no homework along with being able to play outside after dinner until 8:45pm when we heard our parents’ whistle to come home. After depositing my school stuff, we grabbed a snack and played until it was dinner time. After the meal and ice cream for dessert, my sisters and I watched a few favorite TV shows before they would be reruns for the summer. As I laid down to go to sleep, I started thinking about the summer days ahead with great anticipation.

With no alarm clock to wake up to sweet slumber slowly yielded to a half-awake state...and as I woke up fully, I knowingly smiled as I remembered that it was the magical first day of summer vacation. Everything was the same...but it wasn’t. As I climbed up the stairs to the kitchen and sat down at the table, I looked around. The big cat was in his favorite chair, the coffee percolator was making its usual gurgling noises and the Lucky Charms cereal box was on the table – just like normal. Yet, things felt lighter...and brighter. It seemed like conversations with my sisters took on a different tone (we normally argued a lot) – almost jovial. My mother seemed more relaxed most likely due to less mediating and less structure (I believe I inherited my structured wiring from my grandmother Grace, not my mother).

With nothing I had to do, I took my time deciding what would follow breakfast all the while being aware of this mysterious happy feeling. As I walked down the hill to play with my friend, Laura, the warm sun and slight breeze yielded another sign of summer…with a dash of pixie dust. With no school day structure, we knew it was lunch time when we were hungry, not from the shrill of the school bell. As we ate our sandwiches outside on the picnic table, I soaked in the scents of summers – the sweet fragrance of nearby honeysuckle, the buzzing sounds of insects circling (of course hoping the mosquitoes wouldn’t bite us) and the cool shade that surrounded the table – another sign of summer…with a pinch of pixie dust.

After taking some time in my mother’s rather chaotic “sewing room” rooting through hefty bags of summer clothes to find bathing suits, cover-ups and towels, we made it to the tennis club for an afternoon swim.  My sisters and I were aware that the main reason we belonged to this club was because our dad played tennis on the weekends. Regardless, we appreciated being able to go swimming and order from the snack bar (a big deal to us)…of course we would be in big trouble if we charged too much candy. Unfortunately, the monthly bill was itemized so our parents could see what we bought – yikes! More scents of summer floated in the air – suntan lotion, chlorine from the pool and hot dogs from the snack bar grill. The only rules (unlike at school) were no running and kids had to get out of the pool for the hourly adult swim. The water was refreshing as the sunlight beamed down creating patterns in the water. I tried to find a friend since it would reduce the number of times my middle sister dunked me under the water. While we were in the pool, my mother lost herself in an Agatha Christie mystery under her wide brimmed hat. Her bathing suit was more for fashion than for swimming but she did take a dip in the pool during adult swim as we made our way to the snack bar...never failing to bring her back a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I definitely inherited my love of chocolate from my mother). 

Back home and changed into shorts and tank tops, we crowded around the TV to watch Gilligan’s Island or Get Smart munching on pretzels before setting the table for dinner. After eating, we ventured out for the first official night of summer vacation. With the other neighbor kids, we played “Red Rover”, Red Light Green Light and Mother May I. Since there was a fairly big age range, we younger kids would try and listen to what the teenagers were saying since it seemed rather grown-up and we wanted to know what they were up to. I knew later on in the summer, we would be sliding down the large hill in the neighbor’s backyard on flattened good thing about the hills turning brown and dry in the summer...really made the cardboard fly! Before we knew it, the whistle from our deck came…it was 8:45pm – time to head home. After baths and changed into summer PJ’s, we joined my mother who was watching something on TV…of course thrilled to be able to stay up later since there was no school the next day.

As I walked downstairs to the bunk bed I shared with my middle sister, I wasn’t even thinking about us arguing who was going to turn off the light. I felt the special glow as the first day of summer was coming to an end. Perhaps it really just came down to a bunch of ordinary things that added up to an extraordinary day. And, the pixie dust was a combination of “summer sun warming my face as a cool breeze floats by” freedom, gratitude (a child’s view) and knowing it will happen again next year…all cloaked under the mystic veil of simplicity and spontaneity. Perhaps we remember the first day of summer vacation or Christmas as wonderful because even as adults we want these childhood feelings back …and a sprinkling of pixie dust for good measure.

I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it?
Time is chasing after all of us.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Years later, when my two children and I left their elementary school class parties on the last day of school, I wondered if they “felt it”. I am happy to say I did…the pixie dust came back and tomorrow (like every first day of summer vacation) would be an extraordinary day through the enchanted lens of my children.

Writer’s Note: This story is dedicated to my mother, Judy, who passed away January 9, 2021.

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