Remember June when you were a kid? It was warm outside and the last thing you wanted to do was sit in a classroom. Yet, you had to endure exams even if you wanted to be playing baseball, or skipping rope, or just doing nothing. Remember when exams were over, and it seemed silly to still be in school? But those days at the end of June were a nice breather—the teachers were a little more relaxed (once they got the exams marked) and many a June day was spent outside with your class under a shade tree, listening to the teacher read a book, or using art class to sketch a little nature, or doing a science project which entailed examining a pail of water with tadpoles and other tiny life forms found in a nearby mud puddle, or if you were lucky, the creek.
June was also the month when teachers found time to take students on nature hikes or a picnic at the park. It also featured the end of the year party. That party was always fun, but you knew once the summer was over, you were another year older, and in another grade which expected more of you than the grade you were currently in.
One of the fun things that happened in June when I went to a one room school house was that we sang a lot. We had a music teacher come in during the week, but every day our regular teacher would lead all the grades from one to eight in a sing song. One of my favourite songs was “Puff the Magic Dragon”, the words of which take me back to a time of innocence, when summers went on forever and growing up seemed far away. The song, written by Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) and Leonard Lipton is based on a poem Lipton wrote in 1959. (info from Wikipedia)
Examined more closely from an adult perspective, it is actually quite sad—it is the story of a little boy who grows up and loses interest in the things of youth and belief in the imaginary. To jog your memory, here are a few verses from the song:
1. Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.
2. Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.
3. A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
4. His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
Puff, the Magic Dragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am not going to ruin a song from my youth with rumours of what some of the words “really meant”—I am taking them at face value. And at face value they tell the story of growing up.
As adults we can capture the children we once were with memories of songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon”. We can remember those days with a fond nostalgia that does not have to be lost. The days with seemingly no responsibility, when our parents sent us out to “play” and we were not confused as to what to do—we rode our bikes, went to the store for popsicles, explored nearby creeks, read while sitting in our favourite tree, played a game of baseball that needed no adult supervision or organization, discovered fairy rings, or just lay on the lawn seeing what we could see in the clouds.
Is June the beginning of summer bliss? According to Wallace Stevens: “A summer night is like a perfection of thought.”