Yes, the bank account is once again thoroughly drained as the notebooks, markers, backpacks and spanking new school clothes are all lined up awaiting the first day of school. This time of year always seems to bring up a mix of memories and anticipation that leave my head spinning. Thought I'd share a bit of that spin...
My family and I took an end of summer trip to Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay. I know, it's hard to believe that Green Bay is known for anything other than being "Title Town, USA-home of the Green Bay Packers Football" but if you are ever in the vicinity of Northeastern Wisconsin and have a chance to visit Bay Beach with your little ones, you will never regret it.
Bay Beach was a tradition from my own childhood summers, one that my dad readily agreed to haul all nine kids to simply because the rides were only ten cents each. Yes, I am that old that I remember ten cent rides, but the beauty of Bay Beach is that the price of rides still remains extremely reasonable. Today, there is no entrance admission, no charge for parking, they boast fabulous picnic grounds with lots of playground equipment and the price for rides is a very low twenty-five to fifty cents each! My family of seven can play all day for under $40! Such a deal!
Most of the rides are for the little ones with the exception of a Ferris wheel, giant slide and bumper cars, but in recent years they have added a giant swing, a scrambler and a that killer of a ride, the tilt-a-whirl (which should be known as the tilt-a-hurl because I always turn a hundred shades of green as I work to hold onto the contents of my stomach while I simultaneously embarrass my family with my screaming!)
Once the summer time fun and games are over, we can focus on preparing to educate the young minds in our family. The youngest two Benders still attend Catholic grade school, and so before their school day begins, we attend the daily Mass together. Now unlike the high school Benders, Jack and Mary are denied a lengthy summer and they actually returned to school this past Tuesday. Mary told me that one of the things she was most excited about now that she was a big fourth grader, was the fact that her class would be in charge of sitting with the four-year-old kindergarten class at the school Mass each week to make sure they behaved themselves. She claimed that it is very hard work to make sure that those little ones keep quiet and sit still. "Well now," I replied, "Now you know what I have gone through making sure that you behave in church all these years!"
As we sat in our usual back pew on the first day of school and were watching Fr. Dennis set up the altar, nine-year-old Mary leaned over to me and whispered this fact: "Priests have a hard life. Nuns, too." "You think so?" I asked. "So do moms!"
Justin is the only one of my three high school boys who attended the public high school last year, and this year both his older and younger brothers will be joining him. He's been very helpful telling them how to get around at the school, explaining the rules of the school bus driver and telling stories about some of the teachers and thereby keeping the entire family entertained during dinner.
According to Justin, his algebra teacher used to have a very posh job at a well-known company making lots of money, but he gave up all of that luxury in his desire to pass on his mathematical knowledge to high school students. Unfortunately, he found the work to be so challenging that he decided not to return this year. "That's alright, though," said Justin. "He wasn't a very good teacher anyway. I don't remember one single thing that he taught me in that class." Hmmm. He doesn't remember anything he learned. Whether his teacher was good or not, I couldn't help but wonder whether the student (Justin) just failed to put forth his best effort. So much for our hard earned tax money being put to good use.
Tonight our dinner conversation turned to the upcoming changes to the Missal next Advent. I was explaining some of the beautiful and poetic wording that some feel will be hard to understand, for example, “Let the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful within by the sprinkling of his dew” and “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” Some complain that most people will not know what "dewfall" is, which I find to be extremely insulting to my intelligence. So, I asked my children if they knew the meaning of the word. Of course, they could all explain what dew is, but wouldn't you know that class clown Justin couldn't resist asking, "Does it mean that I won't know what to "do" if I "fall"?
My husband and I are very grateful that God has blessed Justin with a great deal of initiative as well as many practical skills in landscaping, cooking and housework so that we are confident of his ability to make a successful living regardless of whether or not he remembers anything that he learned this past year or whether or not he knows the meaning of the word dewfall!
I pray that all of you who are sending your darling children off to school in these coming weeks will make lasting, loving and joyful memories that will bring knowledge to their minds, smiles to their faces, love to their hearts, and holiness to their souls.
Loving Father, as our family begins another year of school, remind us that without you, nothing we learn will ever make any sense, for you are the meaning in all of life. Help us to be kind and respectful to our teachers and to put our best efforts into learning. Teach us to be a good friend to our classmates and to see You in everyone each day. Send your angels to protect us and keep us from harm. But above all, keep us close to Your Sacred Heart, filling us with Your Holy Love each day, so that all we do will be a gift to You who has given us all that we have and all that we are. Amen.