“Why is there no national holiday in August?” You had to lean in close to understand Pam when she was talking through a mouthful of French fries.
I mean the whole table went quiet. We usually discussed the weather. Or who was dating whom. Or something dumb our parents had said. We never delved much into customs, tradition or government sponsored stuff. I’d not given it any thought because it really wasn’t that big a deal—
“Surely there is something in August to celebrate?” Naturally Jane would come to Pam’s rescue.
“Yeah, going back to school.” Buddy said it with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
We all laughed. Buddy and school was a bit like oil and water. And it had been another great summer…..if you don’t count the big fight out at the clay pits, or Long John and his highway patrol squad’s midnight arrests of the drag racers over at Clarksburg or the closing of the local swimming pool….
Frank’s Dairy Bar had been a gathering place throughout our high school years. We’d listen to Roy Orbison and Wilson Pickett on the jukebox and hark back over our elementary school days. We’d sometimes discuss what might happen, mostly hoping some good looking person of the opposite sex would move down from Nashville….but we never got way ahead of ourselves.
We were a whole lot about the here and now; which, in this late summer evening of 1964, meant preparing for our senior year in high school.
“August is a grown-up month,” Pam lived outside the box before we knew there was a box, “it ought to have its own holiday.”
“Maybe we could start a cornbread festival up on the square.” Yogi was the quickest thinker we had. “Or we could hold a National Car Hop Appreciation Day out in the parking lot. Hey, how about something honoring banjo pickers or dogs…..you know how ‘Dog Days’ swoop down upon us late in the month.”
We’d all grown up together. I could remember so well the “girls versus boys” spelling bees in the first and second grades, the Red and Blue Bird reading classes up at the front of the room, chasing each other at recess, swapping sandwiches at lunch, Bobby throwing up so he wouldn’t have to take a math test…..
Charlotte glanced over at me and smiled at the “Dog Days” reference. Lord, we hauled hay for her father late one August when the temperature was a hundred and ten in the shade, the air was completely sucked out of West Tennessee by a low pressure area over Benton, Kentucky, and dog files were as thick as snake oil salesmen at a hypochondriac convention. Charlotte’s glasses were fogged up, her hair plastered to the side of her face. I can only imagine how bad I looked….
“What about the future?” Ruth Ann was the thoughtful, sweet one.
I didn’t know if she meant the next few minutes as we vacillated between A-11 and B-24 on the jukebox, the upcoming school year or the rest of our lives.
These were the best friends I’d ever had. Shucks, at this particular stage of my brief sojourn, they were my only friends! We fought with each other. Patched things up. Studied together. Laugh with, and at, one another. Picked cotton side by side. Cried together over the serious stuff. Chased rainbows on cloudless days. And shared most everything in one way or another.
We certainly didn’t know life without each other.
And sure, our world was pretty small. But it was all we had. It was safe. Secure. Maybe a little monotonous at times, but what a blank canvas……that was ours to fill in!
Of course, we didn’t think about that kind of stuff back then. We were still knee deep in the here and now.
We discussed the prospects of 12th grade English in Miss Polly’s class. We wondered how the football team would fare without Wesley Beal at quarterback. We’d spent our high school years looking up to the senior class. You can bet we were all a bit apprehensive this August evening about becoming them! But we were equally determined that no one was going to see us sweat! It was our time!
The future that Ruth Ann might have been talking about was years and years down the road.
“Do you think they’ll someday come up with a real holiday for August?” Did I mention Pam was not one to fade quietly into the night….