Now that I am fifty

London at night, as seen while flying with my favorite storybook hero, Peter Pan. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, August 2003

London at night, as seen while flying with my favorite storybook hero, Peter Pan.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, August 2003

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”C. S. Lewis

All of my life people have told me that I looked or seemed much younger than I am.  While I started enjoying this after I was thirty or so, it was absolutely mortifying to hear it as a child, or even worse, as a teenager.  I loved turning 40, and 50 was even better, because I no longer felt threatened by being thought childish or immature.  Plus I can get my senior discount now without anyone questioning it!  In fact, they usually give it to me without my asking for it.

It was great to be a children’s librarian and read picture books without anyone thinking me odd.  But I recommend them to everyone, at any age.  I used to tell library visitors that the “E” on the spine stood for “everyone,” not “easy.”

Publishers of picture books know that their products must be as appealing to adults as they are to children, because they are designed to be read aloud by adults, and children are notorious for wanting to hear the same stories again and again.  This repetition builds early reading skills as toddlers learn to match the appearance of certain words with how they sound.  So everyone benefits if the adults enjoy the story enough to keep re-reading it.  (As Raynard would say, “I digress”).

However old you are, I hope you are at least old enough to value the youthful spirit inside you, and don’t feel the need to hide it.  As a wise person pointed out to me years ago, one can be childlike without being childish.

If you have lost touch with all that is wonderful about being a child, try spending some time with children and notice what they say, how they think and what they pay attention to.  Read aloud to them from a book you loved when you were young.  Or rent the Disney version of Mary Poppins and be refreshed by its timeless message.

Today I wish you freedom from the fear of being childish!

One year ago today:

Do not cease to play

32 Comments

  1. It gets better as you get older. You realize how much fun it is, :o)

    • So true! We have something (usually many somethings) less favorable to compare, so we can appreciate it more.

  2. It would seem that C.S. Lewis was a bible reader. The verse he was referring to went something like this: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”. Too many men, or women, continue to act childlike well into their adult life. People usually ask, “When are you going to grow up”?

    • Yes, C. S. Lewis was so well-versed (no pun intended) in the Bible that it’s easy to mistake him for a theologian rather than a professor of literature. I think he made deep issues of faith far more easily understood, while taking nothing away from the profundity of the topics he discussed, than many well-known theologians. I’m sure he must have had that verse you mention in mind when he wrote that passage from which I quoted today. I think a lot of us need to grow up in some ways, but for most of the people I know, we also could use a little bit of a child’s sense of wonder and joy at “small” things.

  3. Ha! That CS Lewis! Once again, I agree.
    When I think of all the stories that I read to my children – how many of them was I reading for myself, as much as I was reading it for them!
    Have a lovely day (“The Magic never ends”)!

    • Thank you, Susan! Children’s literature is one of the best things about having kids and grandkids, isn’t it?

  4. Before I started reading this post I had been helping my girl cut out and string three paper butterflies which she had coloured as part of her holiday homework. Actually it is I who enjoyed it more than my girl – never too old for such ‘childish’ activities. 🙂 And now she is sitting on my lap and reading this comment. 🙂

    • Bindu, I so enjoyed reading about that! I will never grow too old for paper crafts. I used to love making anything out of paper and I still do. You are giving her a precious gift by sharing these activities with her. I’m sure she will have fond memories of it for many years.

  5. Julia, I so enjoy being “young at heart” and hope to always be! 🙂 Your senior discount appreciation reminds me of a grocery store receipt that left me less than happy. I had purchased a bottle of wine and the receipt stated “Visual Approval” whatever that means!
    I digress….

    • Hmmm, “visual approval” is certainly an interesting thing to find on a receipt! Does that mean you can’t bring it back claiming it didn’t taste as good as it should have? 😀 I can see where that would be a policy that could easily get out of hand! Your youthful spirit comes through here and brightens my day. Thanks for being you!!!

  6. I embrace my child in many ways: grooming and keeping a fairy garden, re-reading children’s books, dressing up for Halloween parties and giggling with girlfriends. It keeps you young, doesn’t it? Lovely post, Julia.

    • Thank you Alys! I love your fairy garden (and Alyster’s world in Boomdeeville). My cousin Judy has some lovely outdoor “enchanted gardens” with all sorts of interesting inhabitants! I have only seen them in photos but I hope to see them in real life one day. (I’m sure someone is thinking “did she just call a fairy garden ‘real life’?”) Dressing up and getting the giggles are great fun too. Nothing like a dose of being young at heart to chase away depression.

      • Why of course fairy garden’s are real life. Just a tiny, creative microcosm of real life. I like the term “enchanted gardens” too. Does Judy live in the States? It would be fun to blog from her garden one day.

        • Yes, Judy lives in north Alabama. I would love to blog from her garden. She re-arranges it each year I think, but she has little ponds and lots of cute things to take photos of. I’ll try to do that next time I am down that way.

          • Sounds like a fun place…except for the heat. 🙂

            • Yes, I’ll try to find a cooler time to go. Fall is very nice there.

  7. Julia, I also enjoy reading children’s books. I’ve encouraged several young people who couldn’t read well to start by reading children picture books.
    And I still enjoy swinging!
    I get complements on my skin, and some are surprised to learn I’m in my seventies(or so they say:) ) but they’re not looking in my mirror!
    From your picture I can well believe you are younger. 🙂

    • Merry, I forgot to mention swinging – I still love it! And I think many adults do, whether they will admit it or not. I wish I had a big tree swing. I have never seen your face but I do think of you as being younger than “in your seventies” — although I’m not even sure that sounds old to me anymore. I have been blessed to know many people who were still active and delightful in their 90’s. My photos — at least the ones on here — look younger than I really do look, I think. Sometimes I will see a photo of me that makes me look 20 years older than I feel! Those are the ones that don’t make it onto the blog or Facebook page. 😀

  8. Michael

    Great post Julia. Looking forward to reading some children’s books to my granddaughter one day. Hopefully soon.
    Great quote ” I put away the childish things including the fear of childishness .”
    Too bad some great writers like Paul Fleishman always get tucked away in the children’s section where some adults never tread. His book-” Seed Folks” is a personal favorite also Bull Run.
    Did you happen to see- “Saving Mr. Banks”- about the making of Mary Poppins? Lots of insight into personal family demons and such. And what was the message of Mary Poppins? A spoonful of sugar? Will have to watch the original one of these days. Disney’s daughters were taken with the story and he promised he would get the story on the big screen. It took him twenty years to get there.

    • Michael, the great authors of so-called “children’s literature” are among the best of all time. Prolific writers such as Lois Lowry, Jane Yolen, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Jerry Spinelli are only a few who could rank up there with Paul Fleishman. Then there’s the incomparable Beverly Cleary, whose books have remained popular with children for six decades. You have a lot to look forward to when you start to read with your granddaughter. Yes, we saw Saving Mr. Banks and loved it. What is the message of the Disney version? Here’s a clue: the protagonist is NOT Mary Poppins nor even the children. It’s Mr. Banks, the first character to appear on screen and the last man in the final scenes of the film. Another clue can be found in Mary Poppins’ words to the children in the beginning of the story: “Sometimes someone we love, through no fault of their own, can’t see past the nose on their face.” Yet another clue is found in this memorable scene. Of all the Disney films I love, Mary Poppins has to be my favorite. I hope you can watch it soon!

  9. Michael

    And in Hawaii I learned about the Korean tradition of the “second childhood ” that begins with your 61st birthday. You dress up in what looks like a huge diaper-etc. etc. This one I skipped. But it might have been fun.

    • Wow, I somehow missed hearing about that one. I’d like to try it, minus the diaper but plus the frosting-laden cake that I get to eat with my fingers! For dress-up, maybe a onesie pajama set made of flannel or fleece, with feet built in (non-slip soles, of course). 😀

  10. Michael

    And what is a “Fairy Garden”?

    • Oh, Michael, have you really never been to a fairy garden? You simply MUST head over to Gardening Nirvana – then when you are feeling the enchantment, fly away to Boomdeeville and ask for Alyster – tell him I sent you! Bring me back some pixie dust!

  11. raynard

    Julia nothing like a good cartoon or old movie.. These days 1 I dont spend alot of time @ Walmart or ” catching the early bird special at the local diner lol be blessed

    • Raynard, if you like funny old movies, be sure to watch “What’s Up, Doc?” with Ryan O’Neill and Barbara Streisand. It’s one of my favorites and always makes me laugh out loud. No profanity or ugliness, just zany fun!

  12. Michael

    The only author’s name I recognize is Cleary although I don’t remember the content of these books.
    My wife says the boys liked the chapters books- especially “Charlotte’s Web.” At the time most of the reading duties fell to my wife. They also really liked the “Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

    • Michael, Beverly Cleary was a children’s librarian who also wrote one of the earliest series of books for middle grades. You may recognize the names of Henry, Beezus and (most famous now) Ramona, the prototype of the bratty little sister. Cleary also wrote about Ralph the Mouse (and his motorcycle) along with more serious books such as the award-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw. If your wife had reading duty when your kids were young, you missed out! But you will have a chance to catch up with your grandchildren. E. B. White’s trio (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan) are justly celebrated as children’s classics, though he also wrote for adults (via the New Yorker among other publications).

  13. LB

    Funny story: During one of my first meetings after being elected to City Council, someone made a comment that I liked, and I said “cool!” (with enthusiasm). An elderly person in the audience came up to tell me that my comment was childlike and not appropriate for a City Councilwoman. Probably true … but oh well! 🙂
    You are so right, we need to strive to keep a youthful, energetic attitude!

    • LB, based on my experiences here, if there’s anything that needs a dose of COOL it’s City Council! I don’t know who was bothered about that, but apparently your municipal problems are either much less worrisome than ours, or unknown to that person who decided to give you lessons in deportment. I hope you replied, “BUMMER! I am SO TOTALLY FREAKED OUT that I did something uncool!” Hee-hee.

  14. Michael

    Yes I think they did read the Ramona series. Who was it who said, “It is never too late to have a happy childhood?” I did miss out and Ramona was some kind of a detective right?
    The comments that were after the Disney clip on your site were interesting and some said the point was really the “spoonful of sugar”- that you need to have a positive attitude etc., but I gather the real point is to come to terms with our parents human form in a loving manner and we do have the ability to alter our childhood in some sense via the magic of imagination. Some of us have spent hours in therapy dealing with “father issues.”
    I do plan to revisit some of these children’s favorites -Paul Fleischman not withstanding.

    • Ramona was the original bratty little sister that drove everyone crazy but was hilarious to read about. I think the point of Disney’s Mary Poppins is that adults need to focus on what really matters and not get sucked in by what the world says is most important. Mr. Banks is the one who changed in that movie, and he changed for the better. He realized his priorities had been in the wrong place all along. Even loving parents sometimes “can’t see past the nose on their face.” Mr. Banks was able to see his mistake in time to enjoy his children while they were still young enough to enjoy him.

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