It’s been a long time since I experienced the first day of summer or the last day of school as a student. Nevertheless, the euphoria that I experienced, on those days when I was in grammar school or even high school, has never failed to be rekindled as I approach another “summer vacation.”
It seems funny to write about summer vacations now that I have been retired for three years, and the last time I was even a student, though not a child, was in 1990. I still love the first day of summer and the last day of school.
Sometimes the last day of school occurred on the first day of summer. I would feel extra jubilation, however, if the last day of school actually occurred the day before or two days before the first day of summer. You were already in vacation mode and were given another chance to celebrate your good fortune.
Ironically, summer vacation on Leland Avenue amounted to a little stickball, maybe softball at the park, and a few visits to Yankee and Shea Stadiums. No one really went on a vacation.
My parents would take us to Steeplechase Park in Coney Island or maybe Freedomland in the Bronx. Then there would be a few days up with my Aunt Catherine and Uncle Al up in Rosendale, NY.
But, for the most par,t it was on Leland Avenue where I spent my summers.
There was always someone with a transistor radio nearby so that we were awash with the latest summer hits and some golden oldies from the year before. I can hear some of those songs now, and I time travel back to Leland Avenue awaiting the Good Humor Man or the Bungalow Bar truck. In later years the chime of Mister Softee would resonate throughout the neighborhood.
I don’t know how many Spalding balls we would go through in a summer, but it would have to be quite a few. We used them to play stickball, of course, but also curb ball, stoop ball, Ace, King, Queen, box baseball, I Declare War, Triangle, and Off The Wall Baseball. Quite a lot of versatility for a $.25 investment.
The Fourth Of July was always special, and fireworks began exploding quite early in the day. Then in the evening, the skies were filled with rockets and helicopters. Soaring into the night sky and accompanied by a cacophony of aerial bombs that would rattle the windows of houses three blocks away.
When I was still in grammar school, it was a common practice on Leland Avenue that families would set up a sitting area in front of their apartment buildings and provide food and snacks to the kids while the adults did what adults still do today, had a few cold adult beverages.
Those evenings were never immortalized by the likes of Norman Rockwell or Ray Bradbury as both, sadly, were deprived of the Bronx growing up experience. But they still would have enjoyed the sentiment and rejoiced for this special slice of Americana.
Because summer and the last day of school are uniquely joyous events common to all regardless of where you experienced them. The joy one feels thinking about those days is less dependent on where you experienced them than with whom.
So, on this first day of summer, remember the special first days of summer when you were a child. The beauty of that feeling is that you can still have it no matter how old you are.