Monday, May 6, 2013

Charley's Treasures When the Last Bell Rings

by Charley Norton

I thought it would be easy to write about school letting out for the Summer. But considering I have started over three times I guess I was wrong. The problem is time, 32 years to be exact. Yes, It’s been 32 years since I heard that bell ring for the last time. Thirty-two years since I was free to do as I please for a whole summer, to sleep as long as I want, watch cartoons in the morning then meet with my gang (The Evel Knievel Club) at the middle school playground where we would jump the wall on our Banana Bikes and see who could ride a wheelie the furthest. Back then the only time I wore a shirt and shoes was to go to church, a date or when my mom told me to. Yes, it was a great time but I didn’t really appreciate it fully because of the chores I had to do. I had to cut grass, vacuum, work at mom and dad's store and run errands around town. I also had to cut some yards in the neighborhood to have spending money and all the while thinking how doing those things really messed up my summer. I only had two measly months of freedom, and it was unfair that people would take any of that time away from me. 

I must have been the dumbest, most unappreciative little twit there ever was! If I only knew then it would be 50 or 60 years (if I‘m lucky) before I would have that freedom again, I wouldn’t have wasted one minute of my time complaining.  But I was a kid, I wasn’t suppose to think about stuff like that. My parents were very good at teaching me discipline and responsibility but also allowed me to be a kid. They didn’t tell me when times were hard or share with me how stressed they were when it came time to pay the bills or afford a repair or any of the other unpleasant things grown up’s have to deal with every day. For this, I can’t thank them enough. There was plenty of time for that later. But because they didn’t put that pressure on me, I didn’t appreciate just how good I had it and would sometimes complain. 

I can still feel that excitement every year through my daughter when the last bell rings on the last day of school and she feels that wonderful relief and freedom. Her excitement spills over to me and I am rejuvenated. There’s nothing wrong with living vicariously through others if it makes you feel good. Besides, I can’t be jealous of a freedom I once had. 

       I understand now why my parents raised me the way they did. They allowed me to be a kid because they felt the way I do now. It’s like a grown up therapy for having to live life with restrictions by enjoying watching those that do not. And by doing so, somehow a weight starts to lighten from my shoulders and I find myself sharing, in some small part, the excitement of being young and the 32 years since I heard the bell ring for the last time doesn’t seem so long ago. 

     I’ve been thinking about time more and more lately and for good reason. In a few days, I will be turning 50 and thanks to the promptness of the AARP by sending me a invitation to join, I am starting to realize that I’m not a young man anymore and the only people that will disagree with that are old people, who I’m thankful for because even though I can’t refer to myself as young, I can at least say I’m younger than they are. But before you go thinking that’s a mean thing to say, keep in mind that time will punish me for it and there will be a day when another fresh 50 year old will say the same thing about me.  But for the time being, I think I will do as much as I can, while I can and not worry about what’s to come. Besides, if there’s anything to the phrase “Your only as old as you act”, I stand to live a very long time!

Charley Norton is the co-owner of Norton’s Flooring with his brother Tom. The company was founded by his parents more than 35 years ago.
Illustration by Tom Scott.


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