Growing up

Let’s turn the question around: why do we smile at young kids, make antics, and say silly things? Dar Williams wrote in her book Amalee (p.157):

Adults pretend not to, but they really want kids to like them. When kids don’t like you, you get afraid that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.

Dar is an enormously gifted writer. (I prefer her lyrics, though.) Hence, I find myself struggling to add anything of substance to the observation quoted above. I’m tempted to dwell in childhood memories, but I don’t want to bore you. Just let me remark that there were times I couldn’t wait to grow up. I’ve always sought the company of older kids—or rather that of smarter ones; not to bask in reflected glory, but to learn from them and to be challenged. As a teenager, I didn’t care about (young) children. There weren’t any in my family (nor in our friends’ families) and I had more important things to do, anyway.

Slowly, my memories began to fade. New exciting stuff was happening all the time: new music, new friends, new philosophical challenges, new postal codes—or in other words: puberty. I maintained an affection for Lego throughout the years, but that’s beside the point. A friend of mine once thanked his parents for what he called a “perfect childhood”. Mine wasn’t that bad, either. What I’m trying to say is: I was happy.

There were several instances where I realized that I was about to lose all those fond memories: re-discovering Geier Sturzflug, re-reading Momo, looking through old photo albums. I never wanted to live in the past. But the older I got, the more I wanted to preserve at least some of the magic that surrounded those moments. Suddenly, I found myself relishing opportunities to talk with my parents and their friends about the past. I started reading children books again, including some I didn’t read as a kid (e.g., The Scarlet Pimpernel, Anne of Green Gables).

Sometimes, I’m tempted to write down autobiographical notes about my childhood. But life goes on and there’s never enough time. I’m glad I started keeping a diary back in 1994. Even though my entries are sometimes rather condensed, these volumes are probably the first thing I’d save if my home was on fire. From time to time I spend an hour or two and read through the pages, reliving those funny or sad (or both) moments. As I stated before, my focus is on the present and the immediate future. But those little journeys to the past are almost always enjoyable and a nice change from the daily grind. As for the memories from my childhood, I’ll leave the closing words to Hansi Kürsch. More than a decade ago his band Blind Guardian released Imaginations from the Other Side, an album which is nothing short but perfect. The title song deals with the very topic of this post and contains the lines:

So I look into myself to the days when I was just a child
Come follow me to wonderland and see the tale that never ends