On Freedom and Independence: Eleven-Year-Old Boys

When eleven-year-old boys walk and talk their whole bodies are busy in the conversations and they weave in and out of one another as they go.

Eleven-year-old city boys camping, ride bicycles freely as we once did, up and down the cul-de-sacs, no helmets, no curfews, no limits. Coming and going as they please, a first taste of freedom and independence. Mine comes in only to water and feed, dropping his bike at the base of the cabin.

Some eleven-year-old boys don’t care for how their mothers dress when they go camping. The other mothers clad in spaghetti-strap tops and short-shorts head down to the beach as his own covers up her skin and wears a hat that dares the sun to even flicker. They feel free to say, “Why do you have to be the only one who dresses so weird?” And “Do you know your nostrils are uneven?”

Eleven-year-olds still build sandcastles at the beach, still snuggle in at the end of the day to read Harry Potter and still want you to walk them to sign for their ice cream at the Country Mart store.

When the Dolphins swim by and the mothers excitedly point them out, the eleven-year-old boys stop, look up and go right back to building a sand village on top of the big rock. The mothers keep waving and pointing to them the the grey arches in the waves, the eleven year olds are done with them–they’re animals–they live in the ocean–they looked already.

Eleven-year-olds stink. Tell you your breath stinks. Hate to shower. Never get out of the shower. They are clever and funny and smart. They don’t think you are very clever or funny or smart at all.

Eleven-year-olds had a great time. Think we should do this again next year. Disappear on their bike (see above) when it comes time to pack up. Hate you when it’s time to load the car and the bike doesn’t fit into the back of the car easily. Eat a second breakfast after loading the car and then don’t hate you as much and say they’re sorry and pat you on the head and call you a “good Rabbi.”

Eleven-year-olds arrives home exhausted from all of  the cooking, packing, unpacking, dish washing, and socializing with their friends’ parents you’ve done the last few days.

They need to rest.

The next day, they’ve recovered and only you have twenty mosquito bites that appear.  The eleven-year-old has none.

Must be all that weaving  in and out eleven-year-olds do as they talk to one another. Keeps the mosquitoes at bay — and keeps their parents guessing.

Surely Lyndon B. Johnson had eleven-year-old boys in mind as he spoke these words:  “This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope.”

Happy Independence Day, Y’all!

I love how each boy just keeps talking and weaving his way into the middle as they walk along the path.



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