For my son, Nicholas, who was, at the time, 5 years old, the first day of school went surprisingly well. His older sisters got him dressed, and he sat on the edge of the bed, holding his feet out and not kicking while they pushed white socks up his legs, put the new shoes on and tied the laces.
When he came home, he was non-committal, and Joan and I decided rather proudly that Nicholas was already capable of taking things in stride. He had accepted new responsibilities and abrupt change, I pointed out to Joan, in a growup, matter-of-fact way.
But the next day was the second day of school, and Nicholas reacted sharply. When his sisters got him up and started to get him dressed, he screamed and kicked and cried. They couldn't do anything with him, so they summoned me.
I fixeda calm demeanor upon myself and walked into the room from whence came the sound and fury, and I said, "Now, Nicholas, what in the world seems to be the trouble?" Nicholas continued to scream, so I tried a second approach.
"Nicholas, I said, "surely you aren't complaining about going to school. You went to school yesterday."
At which Nicholas ceased kicking and screaming and looked up at me through his tears and said, "That's right. And now they want me to do it again."
I have always counted that day as the day on which Nicholas attained wisdom and understanding about the world.
As each summer comes to an end and the word "vacation" becomes once again a distant dream, I have reminded myself of his remark. I found it to contain essential truth, expressed not so poetically, but just as certainly as in, for example, "Is there no balm in Gilead?"
"The summer is past, the harvest is ended and we are not saved," said Jeremiah, and no prophet of his time or any other has suggested that the world will ever reasch the stage where it will not be necessary for most of its inhabitants to be up and doing.
Personally, I'm glad this is so. I enjoyed my vacation. On the gray days I lay in a hammock and read all three volumes of the letter of Sir Harold Nicolson. On the bright and sunny days, I went swimming. One day I fished in the ocean with success.
I could have kept it up a little longer, but I got an itchy feeling toward the end that reminded me that I had things to do - the result, I suppose, of long application to the grindstone.
For surely man in his natural state is indolent, as the Bible tells us Adam and Eve were indolent. We have to train our children to work until they develop those still, small voices that will not let them rest or that whisper suggestions of guilt whenever they rest too long.
Eventually, so we pray, they will come to enjoy work, to take pride in it, and if they are very lucky, to be able to make their work not just a means by which they can afford to live, but a means by which they can add a little to the world's supply excellence or competence or efficiency.
But it takes time for one generation to train another to accept this notion. Nicholas, for example, is fast growing up. He is 11 years old now, and he knows that the first day of scholl will inevitably be followed by the second. But he hasn't yet developed that itch, that reminder, that prod. He doesn't really like to be up and doing.
"I don't see hwy I have to spend so much of time going to school," he remarked, as he went out the door the other day to begin another term. "After all, eventually I'll die."