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Column: Learning a valuable lesson from a youngster

In just a matter of days, students across the state will trudge from home for the first day of the 2011 school year (sorry to rub it in, guys). Those students will spend the next nine months learning math and science and social studies and whatever else from their teachers.

However, I feel that we, as adults, often take for granted what our youth have to teach us. It's easy to think that, because of our years (in my case, decades upon decades) of life experience, that we have nothing left to learn - after all, we've seen and done it all.

I think, though, that sometimes it's important to look at our kids or our students and try to learn from them what it means to be young, to be carefree, to have fun. Those three things are often easier said than done for us old fogies, what with a thing called real life.

For example: This past weekend, I was celebrating with family at a cousin's wedding. It was a very nice ceremony in a beautiful country church, experienced in the company of loved ones.

Later that night, everyone relocated for the wedding reception. Again, with friends and family, we celebrated the new couple with food and drink and then hit the dance floor.

While the party lasted until well after midnight, there's always the sense at these events that there's never enough time. The late hours approach, the yawns turn to calling it a night, and thoughts turn to heading for home in the morning, leaving only memories (and photos - hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of photos) to remember the weekend by.

(The weekend wedding is apropos, I think, of summer in general. I know I touched on this recently, but now that it's actually September and the nights are cooler, there's no hiding from the fact that our summer days are numbered now.)

Anyway, it's at this point of the night that we, as adults, would probably hug our loved ones and say, "Thanks for the memories. It was a wonderful time."

As we get older, we can't stay up quite as late, and we can't party like we used to (so I hear, at least. I can still party with the best of them, as I demonstrated on Saturday night).

For one particular child at the party, though, it was at this point of the night that he apparently decided that he was having so much fun he wanted something substantial to remember the night by. For, late in the night, he ran through the crowd right in front of me carrying a board probably longer than he was tall, making a beeline for the exit.

He had taken with him a piece of the dance floor.

His mother caught him before he could escape the reception area, and the board was returned. Not long afterward, though, he was caught again trying to pry up a board from a different corner of the dance floor.

I didn't hear him, but apparently he said that he was trying to get a souvenir.

The point I'm trying to make here, apart from the fact that stealing a board from a dance floor is harder than it may seem, is that that kid maybe had the right idea. Why call it a night when good times such as these only come so often? Make the most of it.

Of course, I'm not being completely literal here - I'm not condoning theft as a way of remembering a good time, nor am I condoning taking apart a dance floor while a dance is still going on. I'm just saying, though, that sometimes we should maybe take a cue from kids and kick back and have fun. Forget real life for a little while. Tear apart the dance floor like you used to when you were younger.

Figuratively speaking, of course.