It’s a day we all remember deeply anticipating, its arrival often marked with shouts of joy, the sweet release of a long-term task completed, excitement for the future and a twinge of remorse for bygone days that won’t be relived again.
As anyone with kids — or for that matter, most anyone with Facebook friends who are teachers — knows, the last day of school is upon us. For thousands of youngsters across Helena, the blessed day arrives either Wednesday or Thursday. For three months, our area’s youngsters will be saying so long to book-laden backpacks and hours of homework; and hello to afternoons at the pool (if it ever stops raining), long weekends at the lake (ditto), staying up and sleeping in, memorable if occasionally interminable family vacations, Brewers games, Blizzards at the DQ and all the other rites of summer that are as much a part of growing up here as the nine months a year spent in the classroom.
For better and worse, the day also stands out as a permanent marker of time, as parents know their kids have grown another year older and another year closer to independence. It can be bittersweet, with the pride in our offsprings’ accomplishment mixed with the knowledge that they’ll never be this age again.
Which brings us to summertime, and the need for awareness that there are more kids around our streets and sidewalks, on foot and on two wheels, that we all need to be aware of.
For example, in many parts of our country, the curbside lemonade stand is an anachronism. In Helena, though, it sometimes seems to be a rite of passage. While we delight in seeing young entrepreneurs set up on sidewalks around town selling Kool-Aid and cookies, their presence is also a reminder that summer means more kids at play in more neighborhoods — during sweaty, sultry afternoons, but also well into the gloaming of 9 p.m. and beyond. After all, there’s no school to get up for, and it’s tough to go to sleep early when it’s light out ’til nearly 10 p.m.
Kids will be out and about on our city’s streets and sidewalks throughout the day for the next three months — heading to and from summer camps and other programs; meeting friends in one of our dozens of parks; taking a first cautious ride without training wheels; and heading to one place or another for an afternoon of play.
So as we’re reveling in the completion of another school year, we need to be aware of the extra traffic throughout Helena. Watch for kids crossing streets, give youngsters on bikes a wide berth, and generally take it a little slower and easier. We all want everyone to be here with us to celebrate this day a year from now.