Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “Barefoot Boy” is a wonderful nostalgic journey into a young boy’s life in which there are no cares and responsibilities but wherein the exploration of nature suffices for any material possessions he lacked.
My own childhood was very much the same, although in a very different setting both in place and time. Nevertheless, the nostalgic feelings as expressed in this poem help me remember those precious days. Exploring the “woods” (a wooded lot at the end of our suburban street), riding my bike past the lilac bushes in late Spring, their heady scent wafting over me as I sailed past—free!!! Excitement, exhilaration, joy for no other reason than that I was alive and nature reached out every step of the way.
We were so free and unencumbered in those days that my mother would pack a sack lunch for me and I could ride away for most of a summer day without checking in. My best friend was almost always along and we would find a perfect spot on Monkey Island to open our sacks and eat our sandwiches. Why, I wondered, were the sandwiches my mother packed for me to eat outside, always so much better than any I might have had at home? Usually peanut butter and jelly or bologna, or cheese (my favorite), they were certainly not remarkable. But they tasted so good and my Mom always cut them just so and added a little surprise in the bag—two homemade cookies, a pickle, a few carrot sticks and green olives or a wrapped candy. Mom had a way of making the homeliest food special.