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Barefoot Children of Summer

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We were the barefoot children of the summer. More sun burned than tan under mud and dirt. Our soft beginning feet hard like the palms of our hands. We were pirates. We were wizards. Or dragon-hunters. Maybe mountain climbers, or runaway children. We were the Chosen Ones. We were Power Rangers. Or dogs, or cats, or birds. Explorers, inventors, rich folk, poor folk. Knights, or ninjas. We were children. Equipped with creativity and childish wonder, we had not faced the cold daggers of worry or popularity. We were just children, off in our own little world.

Our common ground was our neighborhood. Once an endless row of houses, my older eyes now see a short stretch of road with a few courts circling around a pod of homes. My house was among the pod of homes in the middle. My humble one-story paired with another small one-story: This one blue and with three girls instead of one. The M’s were one of the last of my groups to move in, and the only group of kids from our part of the neighborhood not babysat in the summer by B, H’s mom. MJ was a year older than me, and I was a few years senior to A. AG was my age. Across the street was my long time friend C, one year older than me, with his big yellow retriever, Casey. Next to him was H, with his two older brothers, AH and CH, one year older than C. We never knew of any other kids; the few we did stayed for only a short while. It would be years before I learned of a group around our age just down the block, ignorant of us as well. The only company we received were H’s cousins, their names lost to me now. They were a tougher group, alien to us. We did not get along well, but they had the pool. So we managed.

It suited us. We played with the hot pounding rays of the sun to our backs. We ran through the sprinkler, and when C was gifted with a slip-n-slide, we graced ourselves with that. We lived off of peanut-butter sandwiches and those flavored ice things, slim and thin, covered in a thin layer of plastic and sold in the hundreds. Water guns were prized possessions, not easily given away. We created plans and ways to achieve the yummy Oreos hidden in the cabinets.

H and I looked up to C. The three sisters were not around most of the time in my earlier memories. If they had been, I guess AG would’ve looked up to him as well. C was smart, and he had a dog. He was a year older and seemed a wiz to us, so much better and stronger. He could beat H in wrestling and had all the cool Pokémon cards. If C had an idea, we were most likely to side with him than with H’s brothers. AH was much older and seemed cut off from us, his age making him too wise for our foolish nonsense. Sometimes we would sneak a peek into his room, catching glimpses of the awesome things he could make out of little building blocks and kits. His band instruments blared from the dining room when he was not cutting himself off in his room. I guess it was expected we look up to CH, but alas we did not. At least not all the time. He had his crazy exotic pets staring at us when we dared enter his room. The three of us-C, H, and I-were left alone most of the time. We did a million things, adventuring as far as we could and inspecting every rock on what land we had. We believed in the incredulous, taking bliss in the idea that we could see things others couldn’t. It was wonderful.

Then the summer leaves turned brown with fall, and we forgot each other at school. Maybe a friendly wave, or a short hello on the playground, but otherwise forgotten. We were summer friends. H and I almost shunned C for weeks when he told us B was not going to watch him the next summer, and he was going to camp. A sleep-away camp, mind you. He said it would only be a few days, but those few days were hard. I was never as close to H as I was to C, I realized that second year. The next year I went to Loving-Care, where C already resided. It was different through. We were at the point in our lives where age meant everything. His friends thought me childish, and as I look back, I see I was. But I was a child, that was expected of me.

The following years we grew apart. Those barefoot summer days were gone. I got a nanny and a bike. I quickly found myself riding religiously. H’s parents went through a nasty divorce, and C was still coping from the hardships of his parents’ divorce, much earlier. The three sisters soon learned of popularity, a bandwagon I had not yet begun to join. AH became elusive and CM more parental, if not mature.

Now AH is in college probably, most likely on a music scholarship. CM is one of the elite cross country runners in high school. MJ a freshman, sought after by many a suitor. C now hangs in the in-crowd, always seeming able to laugh. He marches in marching band and plays the cello stupendously. I still find it strange to think he’s the same boy I once dated in middle school. AG runs around searching for new trends, never as pretty as her older sister. I see her in school from time to time, but now all we have to offer the other are glances. I don’t know what has come of A. H was redistricted to another school. It strikes me how I never said goodbye to my summer friend. And here I sit watching other barefooted children of the summer play the days away, typing away at my useless memories. Maybe I’ll call one of my friends tomorrow, make a date to see someone, but probably not. That time has long gone. And a new one is about to start.




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