Last week I went to S.Hooligan’s school to see her class present a “living wax museum.” Each child had chosen and researched a character from history; that morning, with iconic items of costuming to project the right visual feel, the kids lined up along the tables in the cafeteria. We visitors wandered from character to character, hearing a mini “autobiography” from each Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, Abraham Lincoln, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
S.Hooligan had chosen Amelia Earhart as her character. She confidently delivered her spiel to Diamondqueen and me, maintaining eye contact the whole time. Diamondqueen had ordered her a simple helmet and goggles, and S. had a knitted scarf around her neck. I peeked back several times as we made our way between the tables and saw Amelia telling interested spectators the story of her life.
The event reminded me how much I loved the last weeks of the academic year in grade school because of activities like this. Granted, S.Hooligan’s classmates worked a long time on the presentation and had to do a lot of preparation. But in the second-to-last week of school, their living wax museum whittled hours out of the school day. I passed other groups of school kids earlier in the week hiking back from some outing or another around Loveland, and tomorrow is “field day” in S.Hooligan’s school. Both Hooligans are counting the hours now until summer break.
In my elementary school years, May Crowning rehearsal was always good for time away from the classroom. In the final week or so, cleaning and preparing the classroom for the summer ate into several days. There were boards to be washed, books to be cleaned with gum erasers, bulletin boards to be denuded of their springtime decorations and covered over with newspaper. The statue of the Virgin Mary was carefully wrapped in a protective shroud of newspaper, too, as was the classroom flag once it had been lifted from its iron hanger and tightly furled.
Since we had no air conditioning and those last weeks of school could be very warm, it was pleasant not to have to concentrate on lessons. And it gave me a delightful, almost giddy sense of closure to perform these tasks. Whatever the past school year had held, it was all over. No more of those kinds of assignments, no more lessons out of those particular books, no more dealing with that teacher’s or nun’s idiosyncrasies. Whatever was learned or not learned, it didn’t matter any longer. Maybe the next grade would hold something worse, but before that there would be all those lovely weeks of vacation and everything they represented.
I watch and appreciate as the various schools in our community wind down from the 2012-2013 year. As a neighbor child staggers home with a stack of graded projects, or students appear at bus stops in play clothes for field day, or the electronic signs in front of school buildings broadcast that June 5 is the date of summer dismissal, I smile with the memory of that so-fine feeling.
If only the end of our lives could feel like that: a satisfying winding up of things, a touch of sadness and nostalgia overcome by a certainty that we’ll be seeing everyone again eventually, and almost breathtaking joy, freedom, and anticipation because something so miraculously wonderful lies just ahead.