This entry is inspired by my brothers excellent piece on Summer in the City. His post brought back so many crystal clear memories of what summer was like in the city and for me, one of those memories was of the end of the school year that led up to the summer in the city.
When we were kids, school in New York did not break for summer until around mid June. As Robert so graphically recounted, air-conditioners were at a premium in that day. The schools we went to had none, and it was right after memorial day that we started to swelter in our classrooms. However, it was around the beginning of May that summer fever really started to kick in. The start of the baseball season in April was our first indication that we had almost made it through another school year, but Lord knows those last three months of school were brutal.
The fever started when the few patches of grass and small trees began to turn green. Though, these were limited in scope, they served as a welcome respite to the gray, cold winters. Not having air conditioning sucked, but in the early spring the teachers would open windows in the classrooms and we could actually smell Spring in the air.
Many of the classes I had in high school overlooked the track and practice fields for the baseball team, and rather than paying attention to my Chemistry teacher, I spent a good amount of time gazing out those windows onto the now green fields. No wonder I failed that class and had to go to summer school… not a very smart move on my part, but I couldn’t look away! Add to that the knowledge that just a few blocks away the Yankees were now playing! The Mets were at Shea and the baseball season was upon us. Rather than paying attention to all the stuff I was supposed to be learning, I was wishing I was seated in the upper deck of Yankee or Shea stadium watching my favorite sport played on an oasis of stunning green in the midst of a city of grey.
By the afternoon of the school day I was “itching” to get out of class , change clothes and head to the park; and while the “park” I refer to was basically all concrete and black top, my imagination had me playing center field at Yankee Stadium (may as well dream big, eh?)
So, the fever has set in. Now everyday seemed to drag unmercifully, especially the afternoons. 2:30 could not come quick enough.
As April gave way to May and May progressed, the heat intensified. Suddenly, the open windows served no purpose other than letting in more hot, humid air. My shirt was damp and sweat trickled down my back… making paying any attention to whatever the class was about almost impossible. Sheets of loose leaf paper became makeshift fans and napkins taken from the lunchroom became bandanas to dry my forehead.
Memorial Day weekend! Yes! This was the final countdown…. just two more weeks of this to endure..then, Schools out for Summer! As I recall , those last two weeks were almost tolerable, except for the year-end exams. Damn, I should have paid more attention. The Mets would be my downfall once again. Should have spent more time in the Chemistry book than in center field at Shea!
So, we crammed with every ounce of energy we had. I just wanted to pass! To just get by… to say goodbye to school until September! For the most part cramming worked, though not the wisest of tactics. Then, there would only be one week left and who cared then? Even the teachers knew it was useless to try to accomplish anything that week. Even the stifling heat could not dim our spirits!
Except, for that one year I failed chemistry. Then the final week was like a funeral. I knew what that meant….. a very long summer of Summer School, with basically no break.
This, of course, led to the Summer in the city that my brother described.
Yet, today, when April and May hits…. my mind returns to center field. The job at which I work gets less attention…. I smell the aroma of spring and nothing else matters.
Until I get fired, of course.