Start of school means final weekend of fun

Even though I’ve been out of the teaching game for a few years now, I am constantly reminded of the framework of the school calendar and of the ebb and flow that is the school year.

Mostly I am reminded because I see my grandkids reaching this or that summit on their formal education journey. I also watch as their parents reach milestones of their own.

Mom Rachel wanted to make sure the three kids who would be boarding a school bus the coming Monday would have a memorable final weekend fling, a last grasp for summer vacation experience. She asked Grandma Becky and me if we would like to accompany her, the three soon-to-be students as well as their youngest sibling on the final free day Friday for a day of horseback riding.

“Of course,” we said. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

We headed to Grandpa Jeff’s Trail Rides just outside Morgantown and saddled up or, rather, Grandpa Jeff saddled us up.

Only one g-kid had ever been on a horse — a pony, actually — and the horses seemed so big, so I was more than a little surprised when all three school kids wanted to ride solo.

Knowing how fearless Adelaide, 3, can be, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see her gallop off on her own, as well. Age rules are age rules, however, so she shared a saddle with Grandma. Soon we were on the trail.

When we got back to the stables, it was clear that this will not be the g-kids’ last horse ride. Maybe they will become great horse enthusiasts. I know that many people are.

I know this because I drive the twisting two-lane road to Nashville, Indiana, at least twice a week and quite often find myself behind a truck pulling a horse trailer. I know this because I have observed that kids, especially young girls, often become enamored with horses. They draw pictures, they read books (An entire sub-genre of children’s novels involving girls and horses exists.), they take riding lessons, and sometimes they convince their parents to pony up, as it were, for a horse of their own.

Maybe Adelaide and Lorelei will do the same.

The rest of the g-kids’ final free weekend, I believe, was spent playing with friends, staying up later than usual, catching fireflies, eating ice cream and generally absorbing as many summer experiences as time and money would allow.

Becky says when her girls were little, special fun on the last few days before school was a family tradition. I don’t recall any big deal made about the last days of summer break in my youth. My mom worked a full-time job while raising five kids by herself, so she was pretty busy. My guess is she was probably giddy with the anticipation that her brood would soon be back in school.

Crossing that divide from summer vacation into the beginning of school hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. I too caught fireflies and stayed up late. Depending on our ages, my friends and I rode our bikes at dusk into our elementary school future or lolled on someone’s porch while speculating on the beginning of high school.

As much as I didn’t want my carefree summertime to end, I do remember the twinge of excitement that I felt on the last evening before school started. New shirt, new shoes, new grade, new teachers. Same old friends at the same old bus stop, same alarm clock that rang too loudly and too early.

Now the three older g-kids are back in class beginning the newest leg of their educational journey. So far, so good. And I am sure Rachel is breathing a little sigh of relief.