I tell you, as a kid growing up in Leaside, June always felt like the slowest month of them all. The days seemed to pass in geological time. In comparison, a glacier moved swiftly and nimbly. A snail streaked by in a blur. The sloth was a veritable speed merchant. But not so those final agonizing June days in the classroom.
I recall writing about summer vacation in an earlier column a few years ago, but that sense of freedom that arrives on June 30th is much bigger than one measly column. Looking back, there really wasn’t anything that could compete with the feeling we kids all had upon hearing that bell ring on the last school day of the year. And in an unrivalled act of mercy – or perhaps it was enlightened self-interest – the powers that be had decreed that on that final day of classes, we would be released – nay, liberated – at 2:30, a full 60 minutes early. (I’m not sure if that tradition lives on today.) The, then, East York Board of Education made a very wise decision to abbreviate that final day of the school year. I think they knew that a certain number of the students – a certain number of us – might not have made it through that final hour. Yes, who can say how many cases of spontaneous student combustion were forestalled by this one clear-eyed decision?
And don’t misunderstand me, I actually liked school. My friends were all there. I enjoyed most of my teachers and the subjects they tried to teach us. Yet, still nothing could compare to that feeling of stepping out the school door to the outside world on that day at the end of June when we were all paroled for the summer. In fact, calling it a feeling may be inadequate. It was a more physical sensation. We were all buzzing. Students would briefly linger on the school grounds chanting “No more teachers, no more books… etc. etc.” My twin brother Tim and I would then carry home in plastic bags all the detritus from our emptied desks, including pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, dirty socks, perhaps some Batman cards, and various pieces of artwork that really challenged the definition of the word “art.”
Within a matter of hours – sometimes our parents would even pick us up at school, the car already packed to the gunnels – we’d be at the cottage, and then shortly thereafter, packed off to camp on Lake Temagami. (Yes, I know it was an idyllic Leaside childhood and I try not to take it for granted.) We were ready, oh so ready, for a break. Nevertheless, while we loved our time at the cottage and at camp with a different circle of friends all those summers ago, I still remember missing my pals from Bessborough and the neighbourhood. I missed the bright lights of Talbot Park as the baseball players took to the field almost every evening. I missed sneaking up to Claire’s Cigar Store and splurging on chocolate bars with my early babysitting money. I missed a lot about Leaside when we were away as kids during the summers.
And here’s the strange thing – or perhaps it’s not really that strange – by the time Labour Day rolled around, and it didn’t take long, I was really ready to be back in Toronto and, yes, back at Bessborough with my friends, back at home in Leaside. Of course, that also meant back to cutting the lawn, doing what seemed like an endless list of chores around the house, and the daunting prospect of homework looming in our future. But it was always good to be back home.
Then it would be the first day back to Bessborough another year older, another grade higher. It would take about a week before we’d all start dreaming of the end of June again, nine months away. Funny how that works.
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of eight national bestsellers. His most recent, Operation Angus, is in bookstores. You can also subscribe to his newsletter: https://terryfallis.substack.com.