Memories of Childhood
Out walking the other day, I had the pleasure of witnessing something that both tickled my funny bone and darn near made my gray hair turn brown again. I spot this eight-year-old boy dressed in a red t-shirt and blue shorts tumbling down a hill as his mom watched and yelled encouragement. The little guy is going fast. All I can see is this blur of red and blue. All I can hear is a child’s laughter and a mom’s applause. What a moment! I stopped long enough to watch him dust off his pants and do a repeat performance and then follow with an encore tumble.
As I watched the little guy, I have to admit that I was spacing out big time. I was no longer an old guy in Northern California out for a stroll, Thanks to the wondrous gift of memory, I became this eight year old boy doing what the kid was doing, tumbling down a hill in my South Buffalo neighborhood circa 1944.
I suspect most of us, old enough to be card-carrying members of AARP, occasionally see ourselves as kids again, maybe even wish we could turn back the clock and relive our youthful moments. It’s the stuff of fantasy, of course. We all know we can’t go back. If the truth were known, we wouldn’t want to.
Living as I do now in the Children’s Village and being close to the six to 12 year old set, reminds me every day that kids’ lives are much more complex more than a joyous tumble down a hill on a summer afternoon. As adults, we like to choose the highlights of our growing up years. We hit the delete key for the stuff we want to forget. And there are forgettable moments.
Do you remember how scary it was going to school for the first time? Who are all these kids? Who is this big adult teacher looming over me? Where’s my Mom? What if I wet my pants? What am I supposed to do anyway? I wanna go home.
If entering school at the age of five was a challenge, what about that first day at Junior High? I can’t tell you how many adults who feel they had a pretty happy childhood, go into spasms of emotional distress at the memory of junior high. As one of my friends put it, “I had zits on my face, hair on by body where I had never had it before. I was so self conscious I just hoped nobody would notice me. Undressing for P.E. was a nightmare. It was absolutely, the worst experience of my life.” Those remarks were from a guy. Women tell me that Junior High was even worse for girls. I believe them, too.
Then there are those idyllic teen years. We envy the kids’ idealism and energy managing to file somewhere in the far corners of our minds their anxieties and confusion and vulnerability. We rhapsodize about that first kiss. Wasn’t it wonderful? No it wasn’t. Not for me. It took me forever to get up the courage to kiss my fifteen-year-old prom date and I ended up stepping on her toe as I bent over to kiss her. I was mortified and never had the courage to call her again.
I think we adults need to put ourselves in the sneakers of our kids. They are living now some of those experiences that knocked us for a loop when we were kids. Take it from this old guy. Tumbling down a grassy slope hill in the summertime is only part of a kid’s life. Give them a lot of love and a big dose of empathy. They are you a half-century ago.
Hank Mattimore's essays are in book form under the title “Life's A Growin Thing.” You can ordet them on Amazon or (more cheaply) directly through the author for $10 (tax and postage incl) Contact Hank at firstname.lastname@example.org