To be 16 in the summer

June 28, 2016

24  comments

Wakeboarding in Mobile Bay. Photo by: Joseph Tarabella

Summer in the South for a 16 year-old consists of parents who bother him more than the heat, and days filled with friends, food and future adventures waiting just around the corner.

Too old to stay home with his mama, but not yet old enough to be set totally free, it’s a summer for finding a real job in the real world and discovering how very real part-time pay and full time taxes are.

Nighttime beach fire. photo by: Joseph Tarabella

A new driver’s license in his wallet gives him the itch to explore beyond the regular boundaries of the city limit signs, but the new reality of having to pay for gas keeps him close to home. The guys proudly bring their cars over for a wash, wax and polish session and when his mom brings out a pitcher of lemonade, he pretends to spray her with the hose. She says she’s going to yank a knot in his tail and all they all have a good laugh. The old truck will get dirty again when the boys drive to the river to cool off and swing on the rope that was there when their Dads were teenagers about a hundred years before.

Patriotic in Baldwin County. photo by: Joseph Tarabella

Rolling out of bed before the humidity becomes unbearable, he cuts the grass, then goes to his Sunday school teacher’s house and joins other kids from his youth group to paint, rake and wash, knowing the only pay will be a plate of homemade cookies. They’re fine with this arrangement because just being with friends is the best part of the day, and once again, the lesson of “doing unto others” grows even stronger.

playing on Mobile Bay. photo by: Joseph Tarabella

For paying jobs, they stock shelves at the market, wash dishes at the downtown cafe’ and work as the dreaded cage cleaner for the local vet. Having known them since they were babies, their bosses tell their parents what fine men they’ll be someday, but the boys wonder why no one can see the men they already are.

After work, they meet for milkshakes and talk about how someday they’ll have exciting jobs they love, making more money than they can spend. That’s when one says he’ll get out of this small town and live in a big city in a modern loft with glass tables, no dumb antiques to dust and no yard to mow. The others slurp their shakes and agree this is a great idea.


Stars at night in Baldwin Co. Alabama. photo: Joseph Tarabella

Little do they know at that very moment, there are 16 year-olds in a far away city, discussing what it would be like to sit in a field untouched by glaring lights and gaze through the shadows of twisted oaks while flickering lightening bugs below blend with the twinkling stars above. They imagine a place where everyone speaks to one another and the most dangerous thing in town is a poisonous snake slithering through the vegetable garden.

Orange Beach Pass - photo: Joseph Tarabella

The bright white moon shines on a red dirt road that somehow looks different at night and the cows lift their heads when they hear the teens singing and laughing at the top of their lungs. Over the ruckus of crickets and frogs, there’s time to discuss important things like the first presidential election they’ve been old enough to understand or the girl one of the boys just noticed who has a nice laugh and swears he once made her cry in preschool.

The boys who play football have to leave early to get a good night’s sleep because even in the summer, there’s early morning practice, since there’s a good chance the state championship may be within reach this year.

The long days of summer stretch on forever with no concept of what life will soon become. College, careers and marriage will arrive quickly and one day, a grown man will step out of his air-conditioned office and deeply inhale the late summer heat. It will be then, for a brief moment, he’s reminded of his teenage friends and what it was like to be 16 in the summer in the South.

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photos courtesy of my 16 year old son, Joseph. 

Leave a Reply

  1. A special thanks to Joseph for the wonderful days of summer photos! Believe it or not, I remember the days of summer at the age of 16, that was the summer I met my forever love that I have been married to for 43 years! Thanks for bring in me back to the age of 16 and carefree, Leslie Anne! Pam @ Everyday Living

  2. The photos are wonderful. He is very talented. It is funny…they think they have a lock on 16. I remember it like it was yesterday, only it wasn’t yesterday.

    1. It sticks with you a long time, doesn’t it? I remember when I had just moved here from Australia and met the love of my life, Danny Zuko, and going to a beach bonfire with him . . . oh wait, that was Grease. Never mind.

  3. Joseph is an excellent photographer! These are great images. I love Summer in the South…and dirt roads…and bonfires at the beach. Some things we’ll never outgrow 🙂 Hope you’re having a wonderful summer so far!

    1. Thanks Rachel. Summer’s good so far, but I’m itching for a trip to Marietta to see you! Summer is always good in Georgia!

    1. Thanks Karyn. He has that creative streak from playing with blocks as a toddler. hahaha!
      (Karyn knows . . .)

  4. Oh my goodness! I hope photography is on his list of study in college. He has a true gift! These are better than most adult photographers I see! Beautiful, Leslie Anne. Just beautiful!

  5. The snaps are amazing! A budding photographer for sure. Oh, I’m old but I do remember being 16 in the summer. Spending the night with my girlfriends, staying up all night eating pizza and talking about boys. Going on dates to the movies or out for a coke, not to mention kissing all the boys! 🙂
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

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