Celebrating my once-a-year day

Remember when you were a kid, and the last day of school rolled around?  Remember how joyful you were at the thought of an entire summer full of long lazy homework-free days?  Remember how amazing that felt?

Well, when you are a teacher, you get to keep on having that feeling.  And it’s just as glorious now as it was then.

My last finals are graded, the grades are calculated, the classroom is clean (well, as clean as it needs to be be), and I’m loving it.  In the car on the way back from school, I was listening to the soundtrack to The Pajama Game and I happily belted out the lyrics to  “My Once-a-Year-Day.”  It’s a once-a-year-feeling, and it’s mighty sweet.

Driving home, I found myself reminiscing about other last-days-of-school.  When I finished first grade, my parents celebrated the end of school by giving me a book: my own hardcover copy of The Cricket in Times Square, which my first-grade teacher had read aloud to the class (and which I’d adored).  My dad wrote a special message in the front, and I love reading it, more than three decades later.  I can’t wait to share it with the boys when they get a little bit older.

That book was the beginning of a family tradition.  Every year after that, on the last day of school, Mom would take my sister Amy and I out to lunch, then to the children’s bookstore, where we each got to pick out a special book to celebrate the year we’d just had.  Amy and I loved it.  I still have the books I picked out over the years: The Wind in the Willows, The Great Brain, a book of poetry by A.A. Milne, an edition of Ramona illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (even then, I had a thing for the classics).   Is there a better way to celebrate a year of learning than with a special book?  I can’t think of one.

And when Matthew and Luke are in school, I plan to continue the tradition with them.  Sadly, bookstores are not as plentiful as they were when I was a kid, but there’s a nice children’s bookstore about a half-hour drive away that will be perfect for the ritual visit.  I have a hunch I’ll enjoy the outing as much as the boys will.

And heck: in honor of the end of the school year,  I just may go out this weekend  and treat myself to a new book.  I’ll never be too old for that kind of celebration.

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