Growing up, I loved school. I loved learning. I loved my teachers. I loved the smell of crayons and freshly sharpened pencils. I loved the process of learning. I loved reading and doing homework. I loved seeing my friends every day. I just loved it. That’s why I became a teacher – because I love to learn. And that love of learning grew into a love of teaching. I absolutely love my job. And I would do it, even if they took summer vacation away.
But when I was a kid, I hated summer vacation.
When I look back, I have always loved school. Even all the way back to my preschool days at The Growing Tree with Mrs. Renchler. I thought she was incredible. I don’t know why. I really have only one memory of her…and it was her shoes. But nonetheless, I have loved learning since I can remember…even if I didn’t realize it.
But that makes me wonder…did my love of school start because school made me feel safe?
After we moved to Illinois from Colorado, I know that two things happened: Kate was born and I went to preschool. I learned much later in life that I started going to preschool at the age of 4 so that I had a good reason to stay right here in Illinois. My dad couldn’t just take me at his leisure, “I had school”. This made school a safe place.
The start of school always meant I had months before I had to leave my safe, secure family life to visit my dad where “family life” was tumultuous and unnerving. School was safe, calm and predictable. How could I not love it? It gave me something I desperately needed . . . security.
But as most kids were bursting with excitement as the end of the school year approached, I was filled with dread. I would be leaving my mom, my sister, my grandparents, my friends, my security . . . and going to visit my dad.
When kids started counting down the days, I was doing a different countdown. One that filled me with great sadness as the end of the school year grew closer and closer. I became grumpy and cranky. And even as I type this I’m overcome with the feelings little Karrie felt.
I remember one time playing outside with Katie and the neighbor kids, Rachel and Josh. I don’t remember what happened, but I do remember I yelled at someone. This made Robin, their mom, intervene. She asked what was going on, because I wasn’t acting like myself. I burst into tears . . . great big wrenching sobs “I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to go . . . to my . . . Dad’s . . . ” right there on the big wheel.
And this happened every summer.
There was one summer that I lived with this feeling for quite awhile. I was 11. In the spring, I had asked him if I had to go out for the whole six weeks. I hated missing out on going to the pool with my friends, birthday parties, slumber parties and staying up late running barefoot through the yard. I really wanted to be home in time to go to my BF’s birthday party in July. I missed it every year. He said, “Let me think about it”. I didn’t tell him, but I was tired of feeling like I missed out on my Illinois life, when for the most part, I was just bored at his house. He still had to go to work. I didn’t have friends. There was no library (or so I thought). I stayed home, by myself and watched TV. Even the things I liked to do, like go fishing, we only did a couple of times. I understand how that request must have stung my dad’s heart.
But I never heard from him.
I lived in fear for a number of weeks that he would just show up one day and tell me to pack my bags. Every time the telephone rang I would hold my breath. I let someone else answer it and waited until I heard the light pleasant “Oh Hi…” I remember telling my cousin Meggan about my fear and she got scared for me too. She would stay on the lookout for anything suspicious.
A couple of weeks into this, mom finally asked what was wrong. And just like the big wheel, I remember crying “I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to go . . . to my . . . Dad’s” And then she hugged me. She told me it was all going to be okay. That God had a plan. We prayed. And then she said that I should enjoy my summer at home.
And that I did. I went to the pool with my friends. I stayed up late and ran barefoot catching lightning bugs.
And so, for me right now it is summer vacation. I often get comments/jokes/snide remarks about my time off. But when asked, “What are you doing for summer break?” I often want to say, “Making up for lost time”. Because I no longer dread this time of summer reprieve.