A classic Family Circus Cartoon brilliantly captured my feelings around Labour Day as a kid. Going back to school was real labour. I recall it as being a completely miserable time of year for me. Summer was over and the heartache of returning to school completely turned my stomach.
I went to grade and high school a bit of a distance away in a placed called Sutherland’s River. It was a ride that seemed to take beyond forever. There were days it was anywhere from a half-hour to an hour ride. But I grew up in a household where a half hour drive to nearby Truro was made to feel like a full days’ travel. I never broke out of that mentality fully until I first left Nova Scotia in 1999.
On more than one occasion, I could have transferred schools to a place much closer to home. Early into my grade school years, my brother and I were both approved to transfer to a school in Trenton. I remember the transfer approval slip being up on the wall in Dad’s kitchen. Why they never acted on it really appears to be a bit of a mystery to this day. I don’t think my Mom even remembers why it did not go through. During my final year of high school, I have the opportunity to transfer to New Glasgow. That ended up not happening for reasons I’ll save for another page. I never really enjoyed school. Going to classes in the middle of nowhere felt very laborious indeed.
Let’s just say I minded the travel.
The problem with going to school in the middle of nowhere was in a ways it felt like a prison. There was little to nothing nearby in the way of escape. Even during high school, which was right next door to the grade school, you were made to feel like you could not do anything. Don’t even dare think of leaving the property to take a 5 minute walk down the road to a gas station that offered some refuge and something better to eat than most of the cafeteria food. Forget it. In retrospect I suppose the school administration was just doing their jobs. Even so on the days in high school when I could drive I would waste no time getting out of the parking lot as fast as the car would take me. Driving away felt like a sweet escape of freedom. As if I had just been let out of jail.
The few moments I did enjoy of grade school usually involved playing road hockey or basketball in the gym. Plus the odd time or two when I would be able to make early explorations into the writing trade. I can easily pick out my favourite year of grade school as being sixth. Even with the odd days of trouble, there was so much to be thankful for then. Things at home were the most peaceful they would ever be. The one bully who used to be ruthless and relentless in his physical abuse had moved on to seventh grade. So the only time I would see him would be on the bus. I remember many weekends that year spending time with one of my closest friends as the Nintendo Entertainment System still was riding its’ crescendo of popularity. We were busy mastering our skills as video-game nerds all to the soundtrack of different kinds of music. Our diets of junk food and high-calorie drinks were not even remotely a concern. It was just a great time to be a kid. When it came to writing, I remember using the journal to vent my frustrations to one of my teachers for giving out too much homework. Much to his credit, he listened and actually addressed some of my concerns. As I recall, it turns out I was not alone.
Now I look forward to September as it leads into my favourite time of year. Fall is the refreshing cool off that one needs even if the Summer might have lacked in serious warmth. It is a chance to harvest your own reflections and see where the last part of the year will take you.
The grade school I went to is the one pictured here. It still stands as of this writing, with some of my former teachers still working today.
I don’t feel so old after all.