Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Midsummer Day's Nightmare

The waning days of July have a knack of resurrecting old memories, and not always the most pleasant ones. An unwelcome packet used to arrive in my mailbox in the late 1970s at around this time of year. Amidst all the fun and frolic that I was experiencing in those summers of my youth, these manila envelopes underscored that the good times wouldn’t last forever—that their days were very definitely numbered. The fun and games would soon be over, because new school years were right around the corner.

“Once again I am writing to you in the middle of the summer with materials and information concerning the opening of school in September,” the packets' cover letters invariably began. They were actually addressed “Dear Parents,” because the first order of business was establishing what the monthly tuition bills would be for the coming school years. For those of us who attended Catholic high school, this was no small matter. In 1978, Cardinal Spellman High School’s tuition was $730, and that sum covered ten months through June 1979. Today, the tuition at my alma mater is $7,250—a tenfold increase. I suspect that the “Once again I am writing to you in the middle of the summer” packets are crammed with even more apprehension than in the past. The $3 monthly tuition raise that occurred in the 1978-79 school year was probably not a budget buster for too many parents. The necessary tuition raises nowadays are, I fear, packed with a more substantial wallop.

Honestly, I didn’t concern myself with high school tuition back then. The folks picked up the entire tab. College tuition was another story. But it was the “Once again I am writing to you in the middle of summer” packet’s recounting the school opening dates and various orientations that faithfully got me down. It always seemed that it was a little too early to have this information in my possession and, worse than that, permanently lodged on my brain. The packet, too, highlighted how fleeting summer vacations really were. If the middles of summers could come around so awfully fast, the ends of summers could, logically, come around just as quickly—and they always did, including in 1978. In fact, thirty-four summers have come and gone since then, with a thirty-fifth one soon to be in the history books.

Happily, I don’t receive anymore “Once again I am writing to you in the middle of the summer” packets in the mail, although now I don’t mourn a summer’s passing like I once did. And that’s for a whole host of reasons, with one being that I don’t have to return to high school in September. It cannot be denied that this annual summer reminder was a real bummer for those of us who loathed school. And I'd hazard a guess we were the considerable majority.

A neighbor of mine, who attended another Catholic high school in the Bronx, received similar materials in the mail at around the same time as I did. And from that day onward, he would incessantly intone that “summer’s almost over” and marvel about the speedy passage of time. In retrospect, time really didn’t fly by in my youth. The high school years seemed interminable as a matter of fact. Now, four years go by in a heartbeat, and summers even faster than that. Thank you for reading this blog of mine—in the grand tradition of my old principal Monsignor White—in the middle of the summer.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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