Summer vacation offered little to write about

My son, Connor Banks, 11, revels in what turned out to be the only semblance of summer vacation he got to experience in 2012. While not quite Cedar Point, the ample beach at South Haven and a large group of boisterous boys nevertheless conspired to make the day memorable.

When my kids returned to school the day after Labor Day, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not just because it gave me a much-needed reprieve from the hassle and expense of finding summer childcare on a week-by-week, wing and a prayer basis, or because their getting on the bus at 6:35 AM enables me to get to work on time, but rather because I was not going to be assigned, as my children so often are, to pen an essay titled “What I did over summer vacation.”

The contrarian might object, saying writing this column about what I did over summer vacation is doing exactly that, to which I would argue, “No, what I’m writing about is what I DIDN’T do over summer vacation.” So there. Enough of your hair-splitting legalism. Save it for the courts, which is where you will end up if you continue to angrily argue over business that shouldn’t concern you.

While my children got to attend and engage in fun activities at church camp, conservation camp and a Young Marines’ encampment, my summer vacation was spent covering co-workers’ summer vacations. Even though I am technically the leader of my treatment team at work, I have the least seniority among leadership there and therefore the least amount of accumulated leave time. The only appreciable kind of leave that leaves me to take is leave of my senses, which, fortunately, didn’t require leaving work. Depending on which supervisor or student you ask, I indulge in that practice daily.

Being new at work has the disadvantage of my still trying to learn the ropes, which amounts to a giant string attached to everything I do. I’m so busy trying to keep up and learning the trade that I haven’t the time to learn the tricks of the trade that would allow me to work mindfully ahead so I can earn some mindless time off. However, during the week of July 4th when the students at the therapeutic boarding school where I work had vacation, I finally got up the nerve to take off one day from work.

Then guilt set in. Who was I to take my own children to Lake Michigan on a 90-degree day when several boys in my charge would be left, sweltering, on campus, hundreds of miles from their families? So I worked with other staff to put together a fun bus trip to Lake Michigan for everyone. We invited a former student who lives on Lake Michigan and he not only met us there, but his father catered us lunch that day.

The day went swimmingly. We played for hours in the sun and surf and bought fresh, farm-picked blue berries on our way back. The photos I took of our group that day the day were priceless, unlike the new 50-gallon water heater on which I had to later spend the money (and more!) I was saving to take my own kids to Cedar Point toward the end of summer.

After six days of being metaphorically in hot water due to not having any hot water the first week of August, I reluctantly cashed in my dream of two days at the Lake Erie-based amusement park and tandem water park for the less amusing need to shower, wash dishes and do laundry. Hardly a fair trade. My children’s faces fell faster than any roller coaster when I broke the news our Cedar Point plans were down the drain.

The only other times I took time off from work this summer were for my friend Stan’s funeral, and the days I got to leave my job early to meet the Dish Network installation man and the water heater installation man, respectively, and the two half-days I stayed home and whooped it up with the clothes dryer repair man (the problem wasn’t completely resolved on his first trip). These events will receive prominent mention in my annual holiday newsletter detailing our exciting family happenings between Christmases.

Thank goodness each of the installation/repairmen was entertaining in his own right. At least that’s something. And that’s the story of what I did and didn’t do over summer vacation. THE END.

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