Summer Now and Then

What a delightful week for most parents as we watched our children trudge off to school.
It’s funny how July fades into August and what used to be a long awaited break gets eaten up in mornings slept in, too much tv, and the optimal emotional temperature that can only be brought about by spending far too many hours with the people we love the most.
My summer looked exactly like the rest of the year, but with nicer weather and more noise around the house. Everyone wants to work from home until they actually have to be interrupted forty million times by remote-control control issues and the feeling that we’re bad parents for letting our kids roam wild for two months.
I feel like there was a day when you could get them jobs so they could become somewhat productive members of society, but those days are long gone, thank you very much human rights and/or slump in economy.
I remember being fourteen and picking rocks in a field for a farmer for five bucks an hour, which was good money at the time. What on earth would make me do that? Well.. the short answer is dad.
Dad was a farmer way back when kids were free slaves and you didn’t eat what you didn’t work for. Dad always secretly liked the fact that I picked rocks for an entire day when I was fourteen but never understood why I didn’t do it all summer long. Rocks need picking, you’re doing nothing etc etc?
My friend Jeremy and I rode our bikes to Hire-a-Student and offered our resumes of “Please give me money. I don’t know how to do anything.” Most of the time it was along the lines of mowing grass or cleaning up people’s yards until Joe the farmer picked us out of the lineup.
“I need two strong young men for the day!” As he checked our teeth and biceps to see if we would require expensive dental care or could handle the heavy lifting. “You two will have to do..”
Jeremy and I had an amazing bonding experience that day. It felt like the part in Napolean Dynamite at the chicken farm when he asked if the birds had “large talons?”
After an exhausting morning loading rocks into the bucket of a tractor with farmer Joe in it, Jeremy and I retired into the house for a scary farmer-lunch. I can’t remember what it was but it was scary. We then resumed our horrible day lifting rocks in a field that stretched off into the horizon.
Farm work to a town boy is a terrifying thing, mostly because it actually involves WORK. Like work with nobody’s mom telling them how amazing and talented they are for doing nothing and dads who maybe weren’t as in touch with their “emotions” as dads today. I’m not sure my dad even really has emotions now? If he does he needs to tell his face occasionally to do something other than “Stoic”. I’d kill to have a stoic face! Maybe that’s what I’m missing..
I did get to drive a truck for the first time ever on that farm though. When asked “Do you know how to drive?” More along the lines of “You know how to drive don’t ya?” More along the lines of “You’re not a big sissy are ya?” I responded with a hopeful “Yes sir!?” To avoid the disapproval of a real man.
Did I just about hit the ditch with Jeremy in the passenger seat? Yes I did. Did we tell anyone? That’s not the sort of thing you tell someone if you’re male… Turns out there is a gas pedal AND a brake pedal… Whatever.
I had a vision of my dad in my head nodding slowly when farmer Joe said he’d pick us up for another romp in the park the next day. On our way back to the safety of town Jeremy leaned over and whispered “I’m NEVER going back there” in my ear. I quickly realized the dad in my head didn’t know farmer Joe and took the coward’s exit with my best friend.
Turns out the next summer we all had jobs because that’s what we were supposed to do. I can remember being asked one year by the teacher “What did you do all summer??” And having a hard time coming up with something ACTUAL, if you know what I mean. “Picked rocks for one day?” was about all it was.
By the next year we had a ready answer when asked what we did, but you have to get way we said it. Imagine the resignation of a fifteen year old knowing that summer was gone forever, a shrug of the shoulders and a grin: “Worked?!”
When I asked today what I did all summer I just grin and shrug my shoulders: “Worked?!”
Still trying to nail down the stoic face but I can’t seem to do it…

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