I'll Take You There
It's the last day of school today--and if not today, then maybe yesterday, or tomorrow, or within a window of a week or two before or after today. Here in Wisconsin, the relatively small number of snow days this past winter has most kids getting out reasonably early in June this year, although a couple of years ago, they were there until almost Father's Day.
There's no feeling in adult life analogous to the last-day-of-school feeling. What comes closest is probably when you voluntarily quit a job, especially if it's a job you don't like very much. (Because I am an old radio guy, I have to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary quitting, because there's as much of the latter on my resume as the former.) The feeling of exhilaration at being set free and a sense of accomplishment over a job done, if not always well done, combine into a sensation of psychological weightlessness that's almost like flying.
And as you might expect, there are a few songs that remind me of what that flying feeling was like. They're records that call up a particular angle of the light around the house I grew up in, and that humid June feeling in the air (inside and out--no air conditioning in that house). In 1979, at the end of my first semester on the air in college, we were playing the hell out of "Roxanne" by the Police--it may have been the last song I played before heading out of town for the summer. In 1975, the end of my freshman year in high school, it was America's "Sister Golden Hair," and Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, which I was playing multiple times a day that spring. In 1973 , the end of seventh grade, it was "Little Willy" by the Sweet and "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel. In 1972, the end of elementary school, it was "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers. And in 1971, the start of the first AM radio summer of my life, "Want Ads" by the Honey Cone.
(That summer, 1971, was also my last as a full-time child. By the next year, I would be expected to help my father with farm work, driving a tractor and such--my first experience with the obligations inherent in trading your life for money, at the princely sum of 85 cents an hour. So when the last day of school rolled around that year, to the tune of "I'll Take You There," it's logical to assume that the feeling of flying may have been a little less exhilarating than before, although I confess I can't actually remember.)
When you're an adult, summers don't come pregnant with possibility like they used to. But if you can remember how they used to, you can capture a little bit of those old possibilities yet. Like so much else in life, they're hidden in the grooves of those old vinyl records.