The older I get, the more I think about my childhood. I am not regressing per se although the inevitable slide toward frailty, forgetfulness, incontinence and death does sound like a good blog topic. What I am referring to is discovering that who I am now is essentially the same person I was as a child and that my interests, dreams and fears have endured.
As a thoroughly “ indoorsy” child, my hobbies, although we did not call them that, were artistic and literary. I’ve mentioned my book addiction and art appreciation, but my background as an artist is largely unheralded.
I spent my childhood making paper dolls. There were two styles of paper doll making. The catalog method, which required little more than scissors and a discerning eye, was the domain of my younger sister and me. The Sears and JC Penny catalogs were plumbed for full- body like-sized figures. Like train sets, we had two scales: the small and the large. Since many catalog models are partially obscured behind someone or something, we were accepting of amputees. Unlike traditional paper dolls, we did not create clothes, but named them and assembled them into families. A full-body male, usually in golf wear was prized. There was a surplus of twins since catalogs used a limited number of models.
The second, more traditional and time consuming method was to draw swimsuit-clad people onto cardboard. For this, my mother obligingly saved the cardboard that came with pantyhose. These paper dolls tended to be teenagers for which extensive and elaborate wardrobes could be designed. Unlike the catalog paper dolls, I don’t recall playing with these – the fun was designing the outfits. I was surprised to learn that a sampling of these still exist. I pursued this interest well into my own teenage years. Are you thinking that I am now sitting at my kitchen table drawing paper dolls? Sadly, I am not. Yet. But I did purchase an “adult” coloring book and a collection of markers and colored pencils. To legitimize this craving, I am trying to hold off until Lo is old enough to participate in the activity or at least appreciate the result. But, as a retiree, I do feel the pull of making things.
Most childhoods include the glorious freedom of playing outside and even an indoorsy child relished the cliché activities such as laying in the grass to stare at clouds, rolling down a hill, making snow forts until one’s hands and feet were numb or riding one’s bike up and down the street in the waning daylight. Playing outside with abandon perhaps has evolved into the physical escape of my current workout habit. And taking walks without destinations just be outside. My family spent perhaps too much time enjoying the beach as kids, and despite the incidence of melanoma in my family, I cannot resist a salty, sandy day filled with wave watching and shell hunting. (But with hat and sun screen and no desire to be buried in the sand.)
As a child, my best friends and playmates were my siblings. Perhaps military children and big families all have this special bond, but there are few memories of my childhood that do not include my beloved sisters and brother. We grew up, moved away, drifted apart as we channeled our energies into our careers and raising children (9 terrific cousins are proof of this). Now that we are mostly beyond those distracted years, we find time to text like teenagers and schedule more frequent visits. To have the daily connection to their lives is surely a reward for growing up. There are no friends better than these original ones.As for fears, the childhood fears of creatures under the bed were easily dispelled and no longer haunt. I am still fearful though but my fears are of an more mature nature. Fear of global nuclear war and the loss of my health insurance are not as easy to dispel.
My childhood dream and the “what I want to be when I grow up” was to become a writer. During my adulthood, I accepted that there was not a viable path to this for me. I do think I compensated by being a damn good memo writer. Now, as another return to that girl I was, I am touching the edges of that dream by playing with this blog. It is close enough.
Maybe these parallels seem contrived and are not dramatic or even obvious. I just know that I am feeling an affinity for the child in me and for the simplicity and flow of those years. In childhood, life was sweet because it appeared endless, offering a bounty of time to play and create and experience. Now, life is again sweet because with the knowledge of time’s inevitable limit, it is no longer endless but is indeed precious, and if we’re lucky, still available in which to play and create and experience.
Lo does not know this, but her existence has exposed this perfect bittersweet symmetry. At either end of the spectrum, we meet in the middle. She also does not know that our mutual future includes paper dolls, drawing, sand and water, perhaps a little sibling if she is fortunate and probably a few creatures under the bed.