Marking the Days

I passed. Better than that; I received an A. I placed my grade report on Steve’s pillow for him to see.

Near the end of the school year, I begin to mark off the days on the kitchen calendar 30 days before the last day of school for Junior and Daisy. They both like school for different reasons but the countdown probably feels like a tally of the time until they are free for the summer. I really count down as a reckoning until the days when the kids are home and need something to do.

School is good at teaching kids to be busy. The teachers move through subjects on a timed schedule and there is always plenty to do. Their stomachs are scheduled to eat at the same time every day. This training teaches children to need direction and depend on scheduled activities. I like my summer days to be unscheduled. If we feel like playing cards right after breakfast, I’m in. If we have a tea party at lunch, I can make that happen. So the first few days of summer always result in the children needing more help to just play and not proclaim that they have nothing to do. This summer, my club pool days will be scheduled with the weather in mind. The other days may have backyard picnics, packed lunches at the park or short order dining when I’m in the mood.

At dinner, Steve asked the children if they had looked for summer jobs yet. They giggled, but I felt there was something darker beneath this question. Last summer, Junior worked with Zettie Louise a few times each week. I wasn’t sure if she needed him to help her this year and I realized that her mysterious spy travels had decreased. Steve told the children that he expected them to read more this summer. Truthfully, Steve is a good reader and finishes a novel every month. Steve went on to present his thoughts on how more reading would help the children learn faster in school. Steve told the children that I would be glad to take them to the library every week to pick out new books. I really didn’t mind him offering my services. I love the library and take the kids there on a randomly regular schedule anyway. The clincher was Steve offering the children money to read books. We had not discussed this and I was unsure of the value of reading if it became a job. I probably burst their balloons by announcing that Steve and I would have to discuss the pay aspect.

After the kids were in bed, I asked Steve about his reading for pay program. He explained that I might need the children to be quietly reading more as I prepared myself for more classes in the fall. I fell quiet. Steve had been thinking about me. And more classes. I had buried my thoughts about more classes because I didn’t know what to take or why I was taking them. I quietly thanked him and told him I would think about it. Steve looked at me quizzically and asked me if I didn’t want to go back. I explained that I wanted to go back but needed to figure out why. School is not a hobby. He told me that he was proud of me, very smart and needed to think hard about it. All said with manly security. In the meantime, he added, how much should the kids earn for every book?

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