The Barefoot Boys (And Girls) Of Summer

A Time To Think About What It Is To Be A Child

Summer belongs to children.

It is the season for them to feel unburdened from the ceaseless-seeming repetition of school's early wake-up call and dreary afternoons of homework. A time for the very young to feel free in their skins and to offer themselves up to fun, sun and to the kind of organically personal education only summer brings.

Like so many suns themselves, children are radiant; every one bright, and burning with a singular and unique energy. We adults are so very fortunate to be part of the great constellation of grown-ups orbiting around their light.

An excerpt from a poem called "A Barefoot Boy," written by John Greenleaf Whittier, applauds the inherent charm of children in summer:

"Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!

With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;

With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;

With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;

From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!"

Caring for children is just one of the many responsibilities and privileges that fall to adults.

Jury duty is another.

When I received my summons telling me where and when to show up for jury duty, I greeted it with the usual shrug of inconvenience. But having traveled to places in this world where democracy is not a choice on the menu, serving as a juror has always seemed to me a relatively small price to pay.

I was promptly selected to participate in a trial involving a very young child who was put in the care of the adult being accused of assault. The details were disturbing, difficult to hear.

"I just can't do this!" one woman in the juror pool announced, eyes bulging with tears.

TRANSLATION: "I don't want to do this."
And here (supposedly) lies one of the primary differences between adults and children; we must strive to uphold our responsibilities, whether we like them or not, whether they are easy or difficult.

In the summer, in the suburbs, there are countless backyard barbecues. The house are different but the settings are the same: the grass is green, the air is smoky from the grill.

The children run past, engaged in the drama of some imaginary chase. They are wet from the pool, sunstruck and oblivious to the adults huddled in still bunches beneath the shade trees, chatting and drinking, eyes obscured by dark sunglasses.

For a moment I remember what it felt like to be a barefoot girl in summer.

And I think about the many ways in which an adult can fail a child.

DKM July 08, 2011 at 12:44 PM
This article is reminding me to grab a jar, poke a few holes in the lid, and give it my son for some firefly catching. I'm grateful to the writer for conjuring up this favorite summer pasttime for me. I love Ms. Kahn's touching and poetic writing style. It's always a pleasure to read her column.
Andrea Kahn July 08, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Thanks DKM...there was no intended connection, but in the aftermath of the wreckage of American justice that was the Casey Anthony trial, I feel more strongly than ever about our jobs (or is it our "honors?") as adults.


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