How I Spent My Summer Vacation

More stories from Ken D'Angelo

It Beats Working
March 30, 2017
Mortality Sucks
February 4, 2016

I was going to write about all of the activities my wife [aka “the boss”] and I had with our five grandkids this summer. For good or bad, the title of this piece brought back memories almost  fifty five years old and took me down a different path.

It was the start of fourth grade at Our Lady of Good Counsel Elementary School and Indoctrination Center. The first day of class, Sister Martha Ann assigned us to write an essay of at least two hundred words with the same title as this one. TWO HUNDRED WORDS!! Why not have me write War and Peace? My parents, as always, were on  the teacher’s side. I was given an ultimatum: supper would be waiting for me after the essay was complete. My folks knew how to motivate me. I knew full well there was no appeal, so I got to work. I was done in about thirty minutes. There were erasures, misspellings and some creative grammatical errors, but it was done.

The next day I proudly placed it on my teacher’s desk. Three days later I was blindsided. At the end of the day I was told to remain in class. As my classmates walked out, my parents walked in looking grim. Alarms went off in my head. I frantically wracked my brain for anything I’d done that would get me in trouble. I came up empty. My parents squeezed themselves like contortionists, cramming themselves into desks designed for nine year olds. This caused a giggle to work its way up to  my throat which was instantly halted mid-trachea by a withering glare from dad. Sister Martha Ann reached into her desk and pulled out my vacation essay. Hope springs eternal in the human heart. Maybe this wasn’t a disaster. Maybe my essay showed a genius for writing. Maybe it would get an A+. Maybe she was going to tell my parents that I would be a great writer. It was not to be. I’ve heard that “the truth shall set you free.” The truth was what got me in trouble. Sister began to read my masterpiece. Varying expressions were given by my parents, none of them pleasant. My essay started when one of my pals had some fireworks left over from July 4th. We decided it would be great fun to take off our model battleships, to an old, nearby canal which all of our parents had declared off limits. This was because “it was a dangerous place to swim.” That didn’t phase us. We put firecrackers in our ship’s smoke stacks, pretended they were fighting and watched them blow up. It was so cool. I also wrote about crossing some railroad tracks to get to our municipal swimming pool. Our parents considered the railroad tracks as dangerous as the canal (we thought they worried too much). It was probably a mistake to have written about the time we shot at streetlights with our slingshots. As to the watermelon incident, we didn’t really steal it (two days after that caper we had an attack of conscience and  managed to scrape up a dollar in change to leave on our neighbor’s porch).

I explained to Sister and my folks that we didn’t swim in the canal; since no train was coming, it wasn’t dangerous to cross the tracks; we never hit any of the lights with our slingshots; and we paid for the watermelon. It was all in vain. My buddies and I received some serious grounding. To the surprise of teachers and parents all three of us made it to age ten. We had other summer adventures, but none like this one. Of course the summer we turned sixteen was really special, and another story….