If the last day of school involved gift giving, it would soon surpass Christmas and birthdays as a kid's favorite day of the year.

Nothing can compare with that exquisite feeling of freedom and the sense that the whole summer stretches out before you.

As I look back on my own school years from the roadside turn-out that is old age, I can't help but find it middlin' strange that the two most exciting days of the school year when I was growing up were the ones that came at the beginning and at the end.

It was impossible to imagine as we departed the school grounds for summer vacation that once fall came around we would be eager to get back in the classroom.

Not because we loved school so much. But there were adventures of the summer to tell friends we hadn't seen much of during the hot months of baseball, bike riding, public swimming pools, bee hunting and family picnics.

The beginning of a school year was a time of renewal with new clothes and unused tools such as pencils, notebooks, rulers and protractors.

And being in a higher grade than the one you slaved through the previous year provided a status that was tangible on the first day of school, despite the fact that it wore off about as quickly as pencil erasers became chewed and notebooks became well scribbled.

All that was too far in the future to even contemplate on school's last day, however.

Which wasn't even a full day, by the way. Not in my school years, at least.

It was only a half day, back then. Just enough time to say goodbye to your teacher and bid farewell to the kids you wouldn't see until the start of the next school year.

Oh, yeah and get final report cards.

No matter how well you thought you did during the year, there was always a bit of drama and nervousness about opening up the card and making sure you were moving up with your friends.

There were no sweeter words in the language than, "Promoted to the next grade."

Kids don't get to experience that pleasure anymore. My grandson, who attends school in Polk County, didn't get a report card on his final day of school. They will be mailed out sometime around the middle of June. Or parents can go to the school and pick them up.

Same way with FCAT scores, which have a great deal to do with determining who gets promoted and who gets put back. They won't be ready until sometime during the summer.

I find this difficult to understand in an era when schools are all computerized.

Or maybe it is the fact that everything is done on machines these days that slow up the process.

Back in the Stone Age, our teachers kept student grades in a daily ledger they protected as dearly as an NFL quarterback guards his playbook. On the last day of school, the final grades were neatly handwritten on the report card and handed out. Now they're computer printouts that apparently take longer to compile than Florida's election returns.

I would not have wanted to have my grades hanging over my head for several weeks after school was finished. When classes let out, I wanted to shove school to the back of my mind until it was time to get ready to go back again.

Even so, I envy the kids who just got out of school. I'm a tad jealous of the summer vista they have stretched out before them.

I think I need a vacation.

Mike Grogan can be reached at mike.grogan@directgates.com or 863-421-5711.