Now that I am fifty
“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: