By Alice Steinbach
Condensed from Baltimore Sun
as printed in Readers Digest June 1993
Suppose I remind you of that final week before school closed for summer
vacation. Of how you would be sitting at your desk, sweating and sleepy, in a
room turned white from the diamond-bright June sun blasting in.
And of how every once in a while, just before you dozed off, a hot breeze
would swirl around the room, fluttering papers on desks and making the
blinds flap before it passed out through the window again.
And suppose I remind you that soon millions of kids will be
daydreaming their way through the last week of school. In fact, there will be
so much daydreaming going on that if daydreams were hummingbirds, the air
would be filled with whirring blurs of birds hovering above schools from
coast to coast like a veil of summer desire.
Who does not remember the last week of school? Who does not
remember what it's like to be a kid so dizzy with the idea of summer that you
are oblivious to everything but the promise of freedom?
Like a sea-weary sailor trying to sight land, you sit slumped in your
seat-the back of your clothes sticking to the splintered wooden chair-and scan
the horizon outside. And when you tire of that, you watch, trance like, as a
trapped bumblebee bumps up against the window, trying to escape. So
intense is your concentration you do not hear poor Miss Parlett valiantly
trying to review Ivanhoe. But you do notice that Miss Parlett is wearing
pansy-shaped enamel earrings.
It was the fifth grade-a time when summer was unconditionally
summer. A time before summer jobs and summer romances. A time when
summer stretched out ahead of you like the Kansas prairies-endless and
So you sat in Miss Parlett's class and dreamed of sleeping late and
waking to the smell of sizzling bacon and new-mowed grass. And you
dreamed of playing Monopoly on the screened-in porch that remained cool on
the hottest days because it was shaded by a huge elm tree.
You dreamed about wearing white shorts and halter tops. And
knowing the pleasure of walking bearfoot on damp sand, on cool grass, on
You dreamed of fireworks, and hot dogs grilled in the back yard,
dripping with mustard and pickle relish.
You also dreamed of weekend trips in the family car: of starting out at
5 a.m. and stopping, ravenous, for pancakes and maple syrup.
But most of all, sitting in Miss Parlett's class during the last week of
school, you'd dream of your first day at the pool: of the smell of baby oil and
the sight of pale bodies. You'd dream of that first contact with the water and
the sensation of diving through a line that divided noise from silence. Of how
late in the afternoon, with the smell of chlorine heavy in your hair, you'd be
on your way home in the car while, ever so gently, the steady rhythm of the
wheels set you dozing.
Dozing just as you are now, in Miss Parlett's fifth-grade class during the last week of school.