Sixteenth Summer

The current issue of The Writer magazine suggested the writing prompt of a fictional teen’s summer between high school and college or the alternative of a nonfiction telling of your own final summer. I normally don’t take writing prompt bait, but this one stirred some thoughts of the pivotal changes that came over the three months of my sixteenth summer affecting the rest of my life. In reflection, I don’t recall any other three months that made such a difference.

I initially titled this blog “The Summer Between” until I thought about our book selection for the de Grummond Book Group this month. Ironically, our new selection is a novel covering those three months called Seventeenth Summer. (I graduated a year early, hence my “Sixteenth Summer.”) I plan to review it in Monday’s blog.

In my own final summer, we moved into a new rural community right after my high school graduation for Daddy to serve as pastor of the local church. My plan in early June included going to Mississippi College, a four-year institution that offered the prerequisites for a nursing degree. How this would be paid for was unclear to anybody. Daddy was a country preacher, and I had a $100-dollar scholarship from the First State Bank of Holly Springs, Mississippi. The issue of money was largely an unaddressed concern.

That year was the beginning of an extensive junior college network (today’s community colleges) for Mississippi. It continues to be an area in which our state excels and in which we can and do take pride.  Officials stopped by our house to extol the advantages of the new system.  A free school bus ran daily right by my front yard, and tuition was negligible in comparison to the four-year institutions. Credits transferred easily after completion of two years into any of the Mississippi colleges. What was there to lose?

June, July, and August also included the operator of the country store just a piece down the road, who had taken over the store after his father’s death during his last year of high school, and his afternoon break. His break time coincided with the afternoon arrival of the Itawamba Junior College bus, and I would spot his red-and-white Buick parked in our front yard.

Ultimately, that three months of the summer between turned a nursing candidate into a teacher, found her a companion for life’s journey, and moved her to Plan B for which she was better suited than Plan A. And the scholarship? It paid all her tuition and bought all her books (mostly secondhand) for the first year with $11 left to start the second.