By Joe Rector

Ah, the arrival of 80 degree temperatures and daylight arriving before 7 a.m. and departing after 8 p.m. signal the winding down of the school year and the arrival of the best season of the year. Even after all these years, this time brings the most excitement to me. The memories from long ago are vivid.

Students are stuck in classrooms right now. The news this morning announced that the company that creates standardized tests cannot deliver enough materials for young folks to take the exams. That wasn’t such a big deal in another time. We students took achievement tests for a couple of days and then went on with other business. What mattered more to us elementary students was Field Day.

We didn’t travel to the high school football stadium to compete with students from other schools. At Ball Camp, we gathered in the large area in front of the school. Parts were grassy while others were barren spots with sprinklings of gravels and dirt clods. For at least part of the day, students raced, threw softballs, and tugged against other classes. At the end of the event, participants went back to the building and prayed that breezes blew through open windows of classrooms that had no air conditioning.

When we became teenagers, this time of year made us weary. We were tired of classes and homework, and trying to be cool sapped our energy. The warm days called us from classrooms, and some of us managed to sneak away from school. We never minded walking miles to arrive home nor gave a second thought about being caught by school authorities or parents. The escape from the confines of school spurred us on, even if our destination was that house where we so often wanted to leave.

It was at this time of year that high school seniors became the centers of attention. Graduation was at hand, and we had so many things to do. Prom was a big event for us, and the junior class paid the expenses. Back then, juniors were also excited about the prom since it was there that class rings were passed out to them. That always meant a huge crowd.

Graduation Day fast approached. Seniors were released from school days earlier than other students, and we spent time traveling to the lake or pools, even if the water was too cold for dips. Baccalaureate exercises were mandatory, and a few days later, we practiced for graduation exercises that were held in Central Baptist Church in Bearden after a senior breakfast.

Our efforts at sending out invitations to family and friends were rewarded as a steady stream of presents came. Many folks gave money which we squirreled away. I remember receiving a jewelry box from one family and thought how nice, but odd, it was since I had only a couple of pairs of cuff links, a watch, and a ring to put in it. Family members from out of town arrived at our house with gifts in tow. The house was crowded, but it was a wonderful time.

This season also found teens maneuvering to find summer sweethearts. The warm weather was so much more fun when a boyfriend or girlfriend was also there. Males marveled at girls who had hidden behind winter clothing for so long. They radiated beauty that raised already warm temperatures to nearly boiling points. Young love that so often proved to be short-lived was blooming fully for the time being.

Even older folks, college students, revel in the spring temperatures. Hoards rush from dorm rooms and gather on quads where they can throw Frisbee, sit on blankets and study or just talk, or enjoy studying in the fresh air. Before long, they’ll leave for home and somehow manage to survive a couple of months in a house filled with parents, brothers or sisters, and smothering rules. Still, after a year of studying, escape to a familiar place sounds good.

This comfortable, easy time will soon enough give way to the scorching days of summer. Enjoy them as long as possible and recall some of the wonderful memories from past years.