Start of school is the end of freedom


There is nothing like the start of a new school year to make a child just itch for freedom.
This was my first year in a very long time to not be sending a child off to the local school in August. It always came all too soon.
I was reminded that it was nearly school time when our neighbor, Emery, came by to ask if his young daughters still had permission to cut across our farm to walk to the Amish school.
Cheerful students. It was a dewy, sunny morning when I looked up from my computer to see tiny Anna and Lizzie making their way across the farm fields, carrying their lunch boxes. I stepped out on to our deck and could hear them chattering with one another.
It wasn’t long till our farm dog, Channing, decided to bark at them. I waved to the girls and tried to silence Channing, who chose that particular morning to decide that barking was fun.
I walked out and said good morning to the girls as they drew close, and I apologized for Channing’s barking.
“We are not afraid,” Anna said quite clearly.
I said, “I am glad you are not afraid, but Channing never barked at you last school year. Why do you think she is barking now?”
“It is because we are oh so much bigger this year!” Lizzie replied.
I thought that was a wise and wonderful answer, and I said so.
She just nodded her little head and smiled at me.
Still smiling. Later that day, I was outside working in the yard when the girls returned from school. Though they have quite a long hike in their bare feet, they were still smiling and chatting.
I said hello and inquired about their day.
“We had a very good day!” Anna answered.
I asked if they needed a drink, and they politely replied they had a drink inside their lunch box. They smiled and waved many times as they walked on toward home.
Most other kids I know are driven to school and picked up, and they are not nearly as happy and talkative as our dear Amish neighbor girls.
I remember so well the uneasy feeling of returning to school at summer’s end. I liked school, but I was never quite ready for it to start back up again.
We had spent most of the summer working hard, helping bale hay and straw, milking cows twice a day, every day, sorting pigs, giving iron shots to the baby pigs, pulling weeds, checking fence.
Freedom. I wanted time to ride my amazing Schwinn on those sunny summer days, to jump in the farm pond, and continue planning all sorts of adventures with my sister on our walkie-talkies.
Walking up the steps to the brick school building, those heavy doors sort of felt like the promise of prison. Inside, the school house clocks seemed to move in excruciatingly slow motion.
There is no sweeter sound for a child than the school bell at the end of the day, cutting everyone loose. Freedom!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.