There are two reasons for making special mention of yesterday, known on the calendar as July 15: it was my sister’s birthday, and summer hit the halfway point. By mutual agreement, my sisters and I pay scant attention nowadays to the mathematics of our birthdays. But considering July 15 the approximate midpoint between the holiday bookends of Memorial Day and Labor Day conjures up a mingle of memories and reflections.
During my River Road childhood, we needed no calendar to play our way through summer. Each day stretched new before us, basically unfettered by deadlines of any kind. Dewy mornings of butterflies fluttering to a concert of insect hums and bird chirps melted into the hot steaminess of midday and closed with the sun streaking the western sky, until lightning bugs twinkled their way across the yard and back again – no formal scheduling required.
We understood that life on the farm revolved around the labors of my father. With planters and plows set aside, with corn pickers and combines as yet unneeded, my dad – often accompanied by Mother – rushed from mower to baler to elevator, what with an entire haymow to stack full of baled alfalfa. And each day ended as it had begun, with a barn full of cows being relieved of their milky contribution.
Oh, there were special days. Family reunions and Bible school preceded each year’s sparkly celebration of America’s birthday: we parked along the road near Uncle Harlan’s farm at the juncture of Route 29 and Millerstown Road to ooh-and- ahh over the fireworks sent skyward from the airport. And after we blew out the candles on my sister’s birthday cake, we impatiently anticipated the high point of summer – the county fair still three whole weeks away!
But mid-July was all about playing – and reading, too. During weekly library visits, we followed our progress in the Summer Reading Program by checking boats or stars cut from construction paper and thumbtacked to bulletin boards set up in the library’s main reading room. Unfortunately, we regularly ran out of books to read before we ran out of week!
As we grew older, our 4-H sewing projects began to create calendar considerations. July 15 meant we had best be putting in hems and tacking down facings on outfits to be judged all too soon. Meanwhile, Mother pored over the fair book to determine which recipes to use for each baked goods category she planned to enter.
During my college years, June, July, and August blurred by at summer jobs; I measured time more by the total of my bank account than by a calendar date. Little did I know then how significant a role July 15 would play in my new life as a teacher.
The summer following my rookie year on the staff at Graham was most unusual: for the first time since the age of 15, I worked nary an hour anywhere. That, however, was the leisure before the onslaught of calendar dates and deadlines my summers eventually became.
There was always a summer school course or professional conference to attend. And my summers soon settled into a pattern of spending the whole of June finishing the academic year, wrapping up extracurriculars, cleaning my classroom – and traipsing halfway around the world with a bunch of kids. August was just as busy, in reverse, as I prepared to do it all over again.
Thus, July was my “quiet” time. Forgoing daily trips to GHS by stopping in just once a week, I marveled at the peaceful hallways populated only by custodians scrubbing down everything in sight. In the absence of vacationing office staff, I instead encountered Falcon athletes and Dancin’ Band musicians gearing up for the fall season.
But it was my sister’s birthday that always shocked me back to reality. I called her with good wishes for her special day but went on to bemoan the fact that half my break had already expired!
These days, however, I no longer dread or really even notice the calendar placement of July 15. In fact, I am not really much of a calendar gal anymore, except for the occasional appointment, family birthdays and anniversaries, due dates for library books, deadlines for my column each week.
It is actually Mother Nature who helps me keep my place in the roll of seasons. The slant of the morning sun pouring through my east windows helps me calculate the number of summer days yet to dawn. The dainty pastel blossoms of spring have long since been replaced by full-blooming flowers flashing their splashy colors. That early, lacy foliage covering shrubs and trees has deepened into varying shades of lush green. Most noticeable is the sea of field corn completely obstructing my view of the woods beyond, corn that nowadays far surpasses the traditional knee-high measurement once associated with July 4.
As usual, nature is offering up her most gorgeous days for us to savor. The math of it all, however, is neither day nor date. It is, instead, my seventieth opportunity to experience this 100-day showy display: first as a carefree child, then as an uber-scheduled teacher, and now as the more mellow Boomer I have become.
Happily, the true significance of July 15 has become my sister’s birthday only. Here’s wishing her the best of every good thing in the new year of her life!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.