Come as children

Outside is Grady's favorite place to be!  On the trail back from  my Mama and Daddy's garden, Fayetteville, Georgia, May 2015

Outside is Grady’s favorite place to be!
On the trail back from my Mama and Daddy’s garden, Fayetteville, Georgia, May 2015

O men, grown sick with toil and care,
Leave for awhile the crowded mart;
O women, sinking with despair,
Weary of limb and faint of heart,
Forget your years to-day and come
As children back to childhood’s house.   — Phoebe Cary

Today I invite you to set aside a few moments for remembering what it was like to be a child. Are you able to step back in your imagination and experience it through a lens unclouded by the years that have passed since?  If you can manage it, you might find yourself moving back to the present with a slightly different focus.

It’s a mistake, of course, to see childhood through overly sentimental eyes; if we think of it as a time that was easy or consistently happy, we aren’t remembering accurately.  Childhood is difficult in many ways, and it’s much harder for some than for others.  But the powerlessness we experience as children, the nagging insecurities born of knowing how much lies just outside our understanding and ability, is balanced by the sheer wonder at things we haven’t yet grown accustomed to seeing.

Grady’s parents tell us that one of his first spoken requests consisted of a single, insistent word: “Outside!” He loves being outdoors, and notices things we adults stroll past, with our eyes focused high above his head. We are looking farther out, into the direction in which we are headed, and don’t usually notice what’s right at our feet.

Like most children, Grady isn’t in that sort of a hurry.  Recently at my parents’ home in Georgia, Drew asked him if he wanted to go down to the garden and help compost some yard waste.  I don’t need to tell you his answer.  In fact, it was much easier to get him down there than it was to talk him into coming back.  He wasn’t eager for “outside” to be over.

If he was moving slowly to begin with, he stopped in his tracks when he heard the neighbors’ goats bleating in the distance.  He was entranced, and wanted to see them.  “Goats!” he cried, and it was not a statement, it was a request.  Drew told him that we couldn’t see the goats because they were in their shed at the moment.  Grady kept crying for the goats, and Drew kept patiently explaining.  I’m not sure Grady understood what a shed was, let alone that the goats were confined in it, but he did seem to conclude that we were not refusing him anything that was in our power to grant him.  With a last sniffle, he changed tracks.  “Bunnies?” he asked hopefully.

Grady was not happy when he couldn't see the goats.

Grady was not happy when he couldn’t see the goats.

Children grow accustomed to having little say over many areas of life, and Grady is no exception.  He’s quite good at moving on from disappointment.  Once he started back down the trail to Granny’s home, he found other things to capture his interest, and the whining ceased. Clearly, he understood that crying over deferred requests was a waste of time;  there were too many other things to enjoy.

...but he soon forgot his disappointment -- too many other things to see!

He soon forgot his disappointment — too many other things to see!

Whenever I find myself daydreaming about childhood, I come back to the present refreshed, happy to be an adult with a considerable amount of discretion over my circumstances, as well as power over my own attitude about them.  But I do bring with me the awareness of what it was like to believe ardently, to trust completely, to explore joyfully.  I remember again that dandelions and clover blossoms are pretty, no matter what grown-ups say, and seeing a bunny or squirrel lightens my heart, even if they are munching on my carefully tended plants.

In most ways I believe the years have been a friend to me, but along the way I definitely accumulated more baggage than I intended to bring into old age.  You are welcome to join me in temporarily setting excess baggage down and forgetting the years for a short time. Put on your play clothes and tennis shoes — or just go barefoot.  I’ll race you to the garden!

 

34 Comments

  1. I admit most of my childhood memories were great. I was blessed with a younger brother of 19 months that was my best buddy and playmate. We were inseparable, Mutt & Jeff, Laurel & Hardy, Chip & Dale. Adulthood changed those times for the worse yet I choose to remember the early years of neverending play and adventure.

    • Bob, you were indeed blessed to have a brother so close in age. Something about being born so close together seems to create a special bond; most of the siblings I know who were born less than 2 years apart have been very close to each other, at least in childhood. Drew is 16 months older than Matt, and he told me a few years ago that for most of his childhood, he never even thought of Matt as having any sort of disability, despite the frequent surgeries and medical issues. Even when adulthood changes that closeness, the memory of it is something that can never be taken away, as you have discovered.

  2. You’re on! Could we skip?? πŸ‘­ I love the photos and your words to ponder. β˜•οΈ

    • YES! Boomdee can tell you, I’m good at skipping, at least for short distances. πŸ˜€

  3. LB

    Julia, this brought such a smile to my face! I do love that oh so hopeful “bunnies?” comment! What a joy it is to have a child around and yes, they are so forgiving, hold no grudges, and are quite ready to move on to the next adventure in life.
    I’m also glad he is a budding outdoorsman!
    And finally, I’m glad you have this sweet boy to bring you joy.

    • Thank you, LB! When I heard him sniffle out that timid question “Bunnies?” my heart just melted. No telling how much I would have paid to have had a real live bunny happen by right then. I too am glad Grady loves the outdoors. It’s in his genes. I sometimes think my father and brothers would have been quite happy living in the woods their whole lives. Thanks for being here and sharing the joy!

  4. Anon E. Moose

    Isn’t it great being a grandparent? Kate had just assured Everett something was full: “It is forever and ever full!” she insisted. Everett was still not satisfied, so he questioned again, “Forever and ever, double-ever?” Everett is enjoying being Four.

    • Tell Miss Kate that I leave every all-you-can-eat buffet thinking I am “forever and ever full” — even “double-ever” — only to discover a few hours later that I’m ready for ice cream or salted nuts! Four is a great age, as Everett is discovering. Of course, they are all great ages, but the years between 3 and 10 seem positively golden.

  5. Jack

    I have an older brother by two years that was my adolescent hero, a star in baseball, golf, school and a host of other areas that consumed me in a strange mix of envy and admiration. Today, almost fifty years later, both in our mid-50’s, he’s still my older brother, the illusion of perfection long since dispelled, but replaced by something far more valuable: brotherhood. Our lives are bound up together by blood, property, common interests, common faith, close children, imperfection, flaws and brokenness, love in hard and easy ways, joy unspeakable in the bond.

    I’m pretty sure he could still beat me up if he wished, equally certain though that he couldn’t outrun me.

    • Jack, your writing always makes me smile. Thanks for sharing this eloquent tribute to your brother. I’m glad you can outrun him, just in case he ever decides to beat you up!

  6. Oh I remember the toddler days well (not my own of course, but the raising of two boys). They were full of adventure and curiosity, and like me, loved all animals. I taught them early the proper way to approach a dog, how to pet cats and that all animals deserve kindness.

    A few weeks ago, my oldest son took a mouse away from the cat. I was in the other room, and when I emerged, he had gone to the garage to don gloves, and was ‘juggling’ the mouse from hand to hand. I was speechless…and proud.

    Your young Grady is a sweetheart, and his papa, Drew a patience man. I love your family stories.

    • Alys, how sweet of your son! Good that he knew to go for the gloves, too. I think we learn early when it comes to how we see and treat animals, and for that matter, people. The two are closely related, I think; anyone who is deliberately cruel to an animal is not someone I’d want to be around.

      The only thing I didn’t like about having cats was the way they sometimes liked to kill things in gruesome ways. Dogs don’t seem as naturally predatory, but they can do some yukky things too. A friend of mine who had a retriever used to get really grossed out when her dog would bring her a dead bird and put it at her feet as if expecting praise — which, of course, makes sense, as they are bred to do that. Schipperkes were supposedly bred to be excellent mousers, but we only saw Pasha use those skills once. Late one night I heard him tearing around the perimeter of our study in CA, and I came in to see what was going on and realized he must have been after a mouse. The poor mouse made the fatal mistake of trying to break from the walls and dash across the floor diagonally — there was a flash of black fur and then just the mouse lying dead in the middle of the floor, with a tiny puncture wound in its side. Pasha had struck like a cobra and then, apparently disgusted, left the scene having done his job as he saw it. I was glad he had no interest whatsoever in the corpse, and that the poor little thing did not suffer. Probably the fear of being chased was the worst of it.

      Thanks for your kind words about Drew and Grady. Drew does seem to be exceptionally patient with him, though he sets firm behavioral expectations for Grady, especially in public. It has been great fun to watch him being a Daddy. Grady keeps his parents on their toes, as all children do! Thanks for sharing our family stories.

  7. This was so beautiful and heart melting. I do not remember my childhood with any fondness but remember the wonder in my children’s eyes. Grady is a very lucky boy. I loved the photos of father and son. They are as life should be. Companionable. It warmed me to the core to see this interaction. Thank you for sharing.

    • Aww, thank you Marlene, your words warm my heart. I’m glad you were able to enjoy the wonder of childhood through your children’s eyes. They can be a great blessing in that way, as in so many others.

  8. Ann, South Carolina

    Grady is such a cutie! And Drew is such a good dad! Each is lucky to have the other.

    Thanks for sharing Grady moments with us, he warms my heart and makes me smile😍

    • Ann, thank you so much! Grady always makes me smile, but of course that’s to be expected…I’m a typical grandmother who LOVES to hear other people appreciate how CUTE he is! Thanks for being here to share our joy.

  9. Julia,
    A wonderful post all can appreciate.
    Grady is quickly growing into a big boy. Granny must be proud.

    We can all learn from him. We start out as a child and, if we live long enough, find ourselves seeking those same simple pleasures. Christ tells us in order to enter Heaven we must first become child-like. Unfortunately, too many of us remain childish.
    -Alan

    • Thanks Alan. The difference between child-like and childish is indeed a challenging one. I heard a sermon about it when I was very young, and the lesson of it stuck with me. As with so many other traits, we must learn to seek out the good aspects of being young at heart, and leave the temper tantrums, egocentrism and ignorance of childhood behind, while holding on to the more admirable features.

      • I agree completely, Julia. May prudence precede any thought or act.
        -Alan

        • Yes…as long as it’s considered prudent to indulge in a nice ice cream cone now and then! πŸ˜€

          • Absolutely! Especially a chocolate/vanilla combo cone.
            -Alan

            • You have the same taste as Jeff. He loves the combo cones. I am a die-hard chocolate lover so I go for the 100% chocolate when I have a choice, although I would never, ever turn down a vanilla cone and in fact, have been buying them on my walks (which pass conveniently near Burger King where they sell soft serve vanilla cones right now for 75 cents) as a sort of “reward” for braving the heat, even in the evenings when it’s not really hot. They don’t have anything but vanilla, but that works fine for me!

              • I love the soft ice cream!
                -Alan

                • Then you need to check and see if there are any Burger Kings in your area that sell the 75 cent soft serve cone — it’s a great deal! Also, there is a restaurant we love called Jason’s Deli, where they have free soft serve ice cream as part of every meal there, and they are quite reasonably priced. My standing order is the grilled cheese and tomato soup special for $5.99, and that includes unlimited muffins, pickles, a variety of crackers and other bread items, and ice cream. Grilled cheese with tomato soup is one of my favorite meals. Grilled cheese with nothing else works for me, too, but at Jason’s I can “have it all” — or at least, all that I want at one time!

                  • Wow Julia! Small world. That was one of my favorite lunches as a kid too. Mom would add a little cream to thicken the soup. How great that was. We do have Burger King’s near by.
                    -Alan

                    • I’m glad you appreciate the finer things in life! πŸ™‚ Pop into a Burger King for a 75 cent soft serve cone and let me know what you think. Happy weekend!

  10. MaryAnn

    These photos of these 2 precious boys are terrific, worthy of publishing ~~~somewhere for all to enjoy! They will be all the more treasured as years pass. My favorite place is “outside”, also, preferably in and around water. I remember playing in the mud at a very young age, squishing it with my toes, running through sprinklers, playing in the rain, splashing puddles, walking on the beach, playing in the snow. (Doing all these w/ my children & grandchildren, also.)You are 100% correct: walking with children is the best way to SEE the beauty that surrounds. It is always a pleasure to let the child lead & find the wonders. Your comments bring to mind that Jesus wants us to have the trust like a child. Thank for this great post & beautiful stories!

    • Thanks Mary Ann! Except for the snow, I can remember doing all those things and loving them. It’s hard for me to imagine loving squishing arounnd in the mud or getting drenched in the rain as much as I used to, but I know I did relish the rare chances I had to do it. I even remember having fun digging worms out of dried manure in a big bard near my Grandmother’s home, getting ready for a fishing trip. EEEEWWWWWW, I can think of all sorts of ways that totally disgusts me now. But I’m glad I had the chance to experience all those things. It’s funny how much rosier so many things look when seen through a child’s eyes. They are indeed a great blessing and reminder to all of us. Thanks for being here!

  11. Hello, Julia! thanks for sharing Grady’s adventures with us. He is such a sweetie! ❀

    • Aw, thank you Merry! You have reached the official headquarters of the Grady Fan Club, and we are open to take compliments anytime! πŸ˜€ ❀

  12. Awww, I really enjoyed this little meander down the garden path J. Oh wait, you said “race you”, oops! I guess you’d get there first πŸ˜€
    I think Grady and I would never find our way home. Goats, bunnies and anything else we could find would be our sweet distraction. What a cutie. It’s just beautiful there isn’t it? A forest right behind ? Awesome. Walks with daddy to the garden are surely the things Grady will remember as he grows up. How fab that you’ve got photo’s to share with him later.
    I guess I did just travel back to my childhood on your post I read just before this one about Walt Disney. You’re right, it felt great. There was a fair amount things I wanted to forget in growing up, and happily I do (for the most part). “Out with the bad air, in with the good” would be how I’d best discribe it. Nothing but good air here today πŸ˜€ xo K

    • That’s a good philosophy for childhood. It’s a mixed bag for almost everyone, but most of us have at least a FEW wonderful things to remember, and others that are softer or funnier after the passage of many years.

      Mom and Dad did not clear many of the trees on their lot when they built their home, so yes, it’s a forest by urban standards. Which means a lot of raking leaves in autumn, all around the driveway and walkways. It has become a sort of joke in our family about Mama and her compulsion to rake leaves. Now that she is not able to do it, her compulsion is to make other people rake leaves, hee-hee. If I were you I’d be sure to hang out with Grady down at the garden, if you are ever there in autumn. πŸ™‚

  13. Heba

    I cannot describe how much this post has touched me!
    I totally agree with your statement “It’s a mistake, of course, to see childhood through overly sentimental eyes; if we think of it as a time that was easy or consistently happy, we aren’t remembering accurately.” You’ve accurately described it, I don’t no why it made me uncontrollably shed some tears!

    But isn’t it true that most of us tend to remember the past even after childhood as better times?! Forgetfulness in many circumstances, is indeed a blessing.

    • Heba, I think many of us shed tears when we stop to focus on our childhood years, and as you say, such tears are unpredictable. For me, they’re a combination of nostalgia and relief; remembering the happy times that are gone forever, yet knowing in our minds that we are glad to be adults and past those years. I do agree it’s a great blessing NOT to remember the tougher moments. While looking back at the past through an overly romantic lens can cause us to falsely see the present as worse than it really is, it is also fun to reminisce about all that was wonderful about the years and decades gone by — and no matter our circumstances, joy always seems able to break through here and there, sometimes in the most unlikely ways! These are the things to cherish and remember.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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