The Fourth of July

Happy July 4th, Independence Day, the high point of summer! The Fourth of July remains a day when families gather, beaches are packed, bands march in parades and fireworks light up the sky.

I am proud as any American to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I find the carving out of a new and lasting nation based on democracy and equal rights an unimaginable feat. I have fond memories of youthful celebrations. I recall lining the streets of my small hometown, waving flags, and dripping ice cream cones as the parade passed by- often with my father marching in it. I was awed by the fireworks display lighting up the sky over Lake Michigan as my siblings and I stretched out across the hood of the family station wagon to enjoy an unobstructed view. Yet, my joy and awe at the celebration of the holiday deserted me when I became an adult and began teaching.

When I started my career, the school year began after Labor Day and lasted through the middle of June. It seemed I had just packed up my classroom and cleared my head of the thoughts of the challenges of the school year by July 4th. If lucky, I had gotten to the pool or the beach one or two times before the arrival of the biggest summer holiday.

I have nothing against celebrations. I enjoy grilled food and good friends as much as anyone. But I quickly discovered a disturbing trend. Simultaneously with the push of the food shopping frenzy, all summer apparel, pool, and beach items were placed on clearance. Before I could even adjust to the beginning of summer, marketing executives were determined to tell me that summer was over! They even took it a step further. The white sleeveless tank that was covered with barbeque sauce and needed to be replaced could no longer be found. In its place were long sleeved t-shirts and blouses. Even long pants were reappearing.

School supplies were replacing sand buckets and shovels on all the store shelves and by month’s end, even jackets and boots were appearing, all before I had emptied my first bottle of sun screen! I had no time to catch my breath, grab a bit of time to read and relax, or even wear my summer clothes! Already, I was forced to look ahead and plan for fall. What had happened to my relaxing summer? Advertising executives had decided it was time to move ahead.

Many schools are adjusting calendars to begin and end the school year earlier. Still, summer is forced to end too soon. So, to all those classroom teachers hovering on the sidelines of this holiday celebration and those who cower in the shadows of this American tradition, know this for certain. I do not judge your reluctance to jump into the frenzy that is already preparing to return you to your classrooms. I understand the dilemma facing you as you juxtapose time with family and friends with clear indicators that your vacation, while barely beginning, is nearly at an end.

My advice to you? Enjoy the parades and fireworks and proudly join in singing all the patriotic songs. Then, stay away from television and department stores. Grab your sunscreen, umbrella, towel and book, and enjoy every moment. Summer really is just beginning!