School’s out!

Farm Forum

It’s a glorious time of year, with so many dandelions dotting my lawn that it looks like a saffron carpet. For many, the cheery feelings this season evokes can be summed up with two pairs of words: Rummage Sale and School’s Out.

When my wife and I were newlyweds, with a baby in the stroller and another on the hip, rummage sales were more than a public display of questionable consumer choices; the bargains found at yard sales were all we could afford. Attending rummage sales was our main means for obtaining clothes and toys our boys, who didn’t seem to mind having stuff that had been pre-liked.

When our kids were small, my wife attended so many yard sales that our car would automatically steer itself onto streets that had Rummage Sale signs. Shopping makes me nervous as an over-caffeinated sparrow, so I never accompanied my wife on her rummage sale expeditions. She heightened my aversion to shopping with harrowing tales of aggressive “early birders” and cutthroat competition for loot that still wore its original price tag.

For example, one Saturday morning wife was at a yard sale when a powerful luxury automobile screeched to a halt near the tables. Its driver, a wealthy elderly woman, leaped out of the car in such a rush that she didn’t have time to turn off its motor or shut the door. The woman scurried up and down the rows of tables, giving the offerings a rapid once-over. Seeing nothing that she wanted, she dashed back to her car and sped away like a blue-haired Batman.

After my wife related this incident, I observed, “She’s just like any other sportsman. Every hunter knows that the pursuit is the best part. Bagging your trophy is an anticlimax.”

“I just wish she would hunt elsewhere,” replied my wife. “She’s 80 years old and I don’t think she needs any more baby clothes!”

The second set of words that elicit unadulterated joy at this time of year are “School’s out!” Even though it’s been four decades since I’ve been confined in a classroom, hearing someone say “school’s out!” causes me to involuntarily emit a jubilant “woo-hoo!”

I despised school on the same level that I loathed the Disco Era. I even used the same words to gripe about school and disco. “This is so annoying,” I’d whine. “When is it going to be over?”

This may come as a surprise, but there was one school that I actually enjoyed. I’m speaking of Vacation Bible School at First Lutheran Church.

A typical day of learning at Bible School began with the young scholars assembling in a common area to sing Bible-themed tunes (there were at least 100 kids in Bible School, so I could lip-sync without fear of discovery.) We would then file into our classrooms where we would color Biblical figures in coloring books, then cut and paste the Biblical figures into dioramas. I often took outrageous artistic liberties regarding the hair and clothing colors of my Biblical figures, yet somehow escaped the wrath of the Almighty.

It would soon be lunchtime, which included a long, luxurious noontime recess. The afternoon passed swiftly with more lip-synching and more coloring and more recess. And never once did they make us take a test! They didn’t even hand out grades! Everybody passed in Vacation Bible School.

The graduation rates in our colleges would soar if institutions of higher learning would only adopt humane curriculums similar to those that were used in Vacation Bible School.

While Vacation Bible School was mostly fun, there were a few nagging issues that troubled me. For instance, I could never figure out who the Andy person was that we sang about in the tune that went, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me…”

I was also puzzled regarding the song lyric which I heard as, “Thumbelina things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bears them.” Why would one need to be spared from the actions of a thumb-sized person? And how do bears fit into the picture?

Another perplexity arose on the playground. At recess, we often played a sing-along game called Ring Around the Rosie. Its lyrics mentioned pockets full of posies and the words “Ashes to ashes, we all fall down!”

I had fallen while carrying a bucketful of ashes from our woodstove and knew that it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Was the song implying that a pocketful of posies would have prevented this?

Just to be safe, I began to carry pockets full of dandelions. This explains why my lawn is so yellow and why I’m OK with that.

Plus it’s not like anyone is handing out grades.

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