The timidity of the child . . . is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place.
Childhood is the barrel they give you / to go over the falls in.
Adults are always telling young people, “These are the best years of your life.” Are they? I don’t know. Sometimes when adults say this to children I look into [the children’s] faces. They look like someone on the top seat of the Ferris wheel who has had too much cotton candy and barbecue. They’d like to get off and be sick but everyone keeps telling them what a good time they’re having.
Children are not a zoo of entertainingly exotic creatures, but an array of mirrors in which the human predicament leaps out at us.
I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.
A child’s business is an open yard, into which any passerby may peer curiously. It is no house, not even a glass house. A child’s reticence is a little white fence around her business, with a swinging, helpless gate through which grown-ups come in or go out, for there are no locks on your privacy.
Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment.
On the pavement a group of schoolchildren was walking past the driveway with their teacher. I noticed these young children crossing, and suddenly I saw them in a way I have never seen human beings before or since. They were so full of light I could hardly look, and on each child’s chest, where the heart is, a huge radiance like the sun was shining.
Oh! to be a child again. My only treasures, bits of shell and stone and glass. To love nothing but maple sugar. To fear nothing but a big dog. To go to sleep without dreading the morrow. To wake up with a shout. Not to have seen a dead face. Not to dread a living one.
It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.”
Strangers seem uncomfortable when you question them about their childhood. But really, what else are you going to talk about in line at the liquor store? Childhood trauma seems like the natural choice, since it’s the reason why most of us are in line there to begin with.
I know how syrupy this sounds, how dull, provincial, and possibly whitewashed, but what can I do? Happy childhoods happen.
Childhood is less clear to me than to many people: when it ended I turned my face away from it for no reason that I know about, certainly without the usual reason of unhappy memories. For many years that worried me, but then I discovered that the tales of former children are seldom to be trusted. Some people supply too many past victories or pleasures with which to comfort themselves, and other people cling to pains, real and imagined, to excuse what they have become.
You’d be surprised how many childhoods each of us has.
It is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it.
You survived by seizing every tiny drop of love you could find anywhere and milking it, relishing it for all it was worth. . . . And as you grew up, you sought love anywhere you could find it, whether it was a teacher or a coach or a friend or a friend’s parents. . . . They are what sustained you. For all these years, you’ve lived under the illusion that, somehow, you made it because you were tough enough to overpower the abuse, the hatred, the hard knocks of life. But really you made it because love is so powerful that tiny little doses of it are enough to overcome the pain of the worst things life can dish out.