By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Grandson Alexander the Great said there are many things he misses about Las Cruces, but going back to school in the middle of August is not one of them.
I don’t think his selective memory is giving full credit to the joys of getting out of school in May. In fact, I think he’s still a little irked about the year he started school here in mid-August, moved and ended up having to finish the grade in a new state where school continued until mid-June. That’s a chunk of summer prime time the universe owes him and he’s not likely to forget it anytime soon.
We had a lengthy conversation last Sunday. He’d just gotten back from a weekend of camping and hanging out with some of his bandmates at the Warped Tour, not in Las Cruces this time, but at the Gorge Amphitheater in the Pacific Northwest’s dramatic Columbia River Gorge, a visually breathtaking place that makes our Rio look, frankly, not so Grande.
He was able to rock out, secure in the knowledge that the next day would not be a school day, as it would be for his unfortunate Las Cruces amigos.
I’ve asked a lot, during my 17 summers here, why we still have this strange schedule. I’ve heard many explanations, none of which Alex the Great and I found acceptable: That it’s related to NMSU’s schedule, and harvest schedules.
The smell of green chiles reminds us that it is indeed harvest season. And during this month’s presentation by Irene Oliver-Lewis on the history of Las Cruces Public Schools over the last century, Elizabeth Holguin Lannert reminisced about the days when students were routinely dismissed from schools to help harvest crops.
“Especially during the 1940s, when so many were away at war, we students went out to pick cotton and work in the fields whenever we were needed,” she said.
But we don’t pull kids out of school these days to toil in the fields, and it’s still kind of a mystery to me why we don’t let our niños vacation until after Labor Day, like most of the nation.
Yeah, it’s only a couple of weeks, and the kids will be glad to get them back in May and June, but there’s something special, magical even, about having that intact block in June, July and August, to do summer things.
It impacts the rest of us, too, I realized, talking with Alex in a kind of summer time warp between Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the Land of Enchantment.
I’d already done back-to-school features and was planning fall vacations and he’s still in the last hazy daze of blissful summer denial, when school seems a lazy aeon away.
Yes, he’s willing to talk about hot trends in teen clothes (“skinny jeans, still, and V-neck T-shirts and tank tops, plain white or colors”) but not the kind of clothes — sweaters and coats and boots — needed to make it through the school year of northern Idaho’s chilly autumn, winter and spring.
We talked about summer stuff: vampire books and vampire spoof movies, concerts and camping, his stint as a summer volunteer with Habitat for Humanity projects, and summer fun as lead vocalist and composer with his still-unnamed rock band.
It took me a little more than a split second to realize that cheerful deep baritone “Hi” emanates from the same soul who once delighted us with merry baby chirps, who finally taught me how to roll my R’s and shared entertaining Spanish kid slang during his pre-school days in Las Cruces.
But the Alex vibes are the same. We discussed computers and his friends, what sizes I should look for to fit his lanky and still upwardly mobile six-foot-frame.
And the fact that he enjoys being able to celebrate his birthday in a place where it’s still summer, before school has started.
Alex turns 14 today, and he’ll be a high school freshman soon.
But not for a few weeks. School or no, let’s enjoy the sunrises, the sunsets and all the last succulent bits of summer in between. Even slow summer days can move deceptively fast. Stop and savor whenever you can, or you might miss some of the best parts.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450