Carry your childhood with you

Carla, Al, Julia, Eric and Kitt Katt, Sunday morning, circa 1966

Carla, Al, Julia, Eric and Kitt Katt, Sunday morning, circa 1966

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” Tom Stoppard

Here it is: photographic evidence that a lot of things about me haven’t changed in nearly half a century.  I still love cats.  I still love yellow.  I still wear my hair in a bun often (no wisecracks about librarians here).  And the camera, well, need I say more?

This photo was taken just before we left for church (that’s the only time we were all dressed up) and I’m amused to recall how my parents let me wear and use that cheap plastic camera everywhere I went.  Back in those days, not many kids were taking photos of any kind.  I just wish my old black and white negatives were not lost in the decades that followed.

I’m guessing that you, too, carry many things from childhood inside you.  For almost all of us, it’s a mixed bag, but I agree with Stoppard that if we stay in touch with all that was best about being a child, we never really grow older.

What happy traits and images do you carry with you from childhood?  I hope you will visit with your inner child often.  For some, the inner child is a pop psychology construct, useful for analysis or recovery, but otherwise disdained.  For me, though, my inner child is a muse, reminding me of all the best lessons I learned early, filled with uncontaminated wonder at a world that seems one part intrigue and two parts promise.

If the weather is good where you are, go out and play for awhile!  If it’s rainy, stay indoors and play.  In the immortal words of the Cat in the Hat, “your mother will not mind at all.” 😉

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    I enjoyed seeing the family photo of you kids in your Sunday best, and the names too. Eric must be several years older than the rest of you, or just tall for his age.

    Your post today reminds me that as I tried to clear my mind of troubling news images before I went to sleep last night, in my memory I began roaming room by room through a lovable aunt’s home that I often visited in my growing up years. I was able to “see” the furnishings and actually feel the relaxed, secure ambiance of being there. She provided me with one of the several islands of normalcy that helped me through many childhood years of family turbulence. That must be why I instinctively went back there late last night to enjoy some moments of peace and security before falling asleep — sort of an emotional vacation during these worrying times.

    Your recent post about childhood memories of front porches also brought back the same sort of memories. And then in another recent post you wrote ,”Today, I hope you will go on a sort of “scavenger hunt” in whatever place you find yourself: search out what is lovely, happy or fun, but easily overlooked. Take a few mental (or digital) photos. If you like, share your observations here, but most importantly, file them away in your joy bank, to be withdrawn as needed in times of negative emotional cash flow.” I guess I’m taking your advice and reaching into my joy bank! Nostalgia is a very good thing. 😊

    • Hi Judy! Eric is pretty tall (I think he’s just over 6 feet) but not all that much older than the rest of us. In fact, he’s less than two years older than my sister, and all four of us were born in the 1950’s within 9 years, in four different states, no less! That little boy, the youngest of us, grew up to be a couple of inches taller than Eric. What a decade that was for my mother! I agree with you that nostalgia is a good thing, though it can pose problems when one is cleaning out the contents of a house (and a lifetime) as I am now doing. It’s easy to get lost in the memories, or in the sadness of realizing that world is gone except for what we recall of it. I like your idea of retreating to a place of comfort from one’s past. I’m going to try that next time I have trouble sleeping. I tend to put myself into generic “calm” settings such as the seaside or a snowy cabin in the mountains or some such, but perhaps the real experience of one’s life have a more visceral and unmistakable credibility. Thanks for being here and sharing your thoughts with us!

  2. Chris

    Wow, what a wonderful photo, Julia. That camera does explain a lot! 😊 I think you’re right; childhood does hold a mixed bag of experiences. As we’ve aged, I believe we tend to recall those that were most pleasant or meaningful. Although, I can still recall things I’d rather not recall. Pictures, such as this one, are a great stimulant that opens the door to those times that are tucked away; waiting for such a moment to put us, again, at that point in time. When my two brothers and I get together for a meaningful visit, which unfortunately is seldom, we invariably start to tell stories of childhood. We do have some amusing tales!
    Hope your day is as intriguing as a child’s wonder!

    • Chris, isn’t it interesting (and usually fun) to hear how differently each of us might recall the same event? Especially with the siblings who journeyed through childhood with us. Pictures help us recall what would otherwise be totally forgotten or unavailable to the conscious mind, such as the plastic camera which I might have never remembered if not for the “trigger” of the photo. Other things can be triggers, too. In fact, I’ve always heard that smells are most directly connected to memory and emotion. Not too many years ago, at my request, my sister was recalling the car accident that nearly killed her and my mother; my brothers were injured, but not as seriously. They were all on their way to pick me up from summer band practice when a drunk driver going 70 mph (before noon, no less) slammed into the driver’s side of their car, tossing it into a nearby field. In the immediate aftermath of the wreck, other than the agonizing pain my sister was feeling from internal bleeding, she says what she remembers most is how the scent of crushed kudzu under the car permeated the air in the vehicle before they were able to get out. WOW, that’s the sort of detail one would never imagine, or make up. It gave me a sharp sense of what it must have been like. Don’t know why my mind went there…I suppose I was thinking about how rewarding it is (even when remembering less than happy times) to talk with siblings about childhood. Thanks for being here, and sharing your memories!

  3. Good morning, Julia! I LOVE this photo!
    That is you, all right – no doubt about that!
    It is a rainy day today, and a Sunday, which may allow for some extra indoor indulgences as I play. 🙂

    • Susan, it has been far too long since you posted this comment, but I hope that you did have fun “playing” on your rainy day. It was raining outside when I started answering comments, but it’s stopped and I need to go get busy doing some less preferred tasks…but it’s nice “chatting” with you, even if not in real time!

  4. Susan

    What a precious picture! I just finished watching Mass at my childhood church online. I told my husband what a comforting feeling that church brings me.

    I was thrilled when my father gave me his old Brownie box camera when I was in sixth grade. Our class went on a camping trip and I was so proud to be the only student to bring one along on our class camping trip. I still have some of the black-and-white pictures! I don’t even remember what kind of film it used.

    A few years later I got a Kodak instamatic, the one with the flash cube on top 🙂 . I always laugh at the scene in “While You Were Sleeping” when Elsie uses hers:

    • Susan, I believe those old brownie cameras used 120 film (or possibly 620) – a square format negative. I had forgotten that movie but I enjoyed seeing the clip! And actually, Elsie was using the much more “modern” instamatic that used 110 film instead of the older (but in my opinion, superior) 126 instamatics. The 110 camera was designed to be compact, but it was so flat the the flash cube was too close to the lens, resulting in LOTS more “red eye” in the photos until someone came up with the idea of using the flash cube extender such as the one Elsie is using in that clip. My instamatic, which shot 126, never needed a flash cube extender. And 126 negatives were more than twice as big as 110 negatives, so the pictures were sharper. Of course, the old plastic camera around my neck in the photo at the blog post could not take any sort of flash. It used only black and white roll film, of the 127 variety. I had to shoot strictly available light, which became my lifelong preference anyway. BTW in case you are wondering how I remember all these details about film and flash…I worked in the camera department at Rich’s department store in Atlanta, and I had to explain to customers again and again about how to use the flash extender with their flashcubes, and why only the flat 110 cameras needed them. To this day, working at Rich’s was one of the best jobs I ever had! 😀 Hope you are having a great week!

      • Susan

        Oh, that’s awesome that you remember all those details! I love it when we accumulated obscure stores of knowledge! And yes, you’re right that the Brownie cameras produced square pictures. One of my cousins recently sent me a photo from that era and it was square. I remember Rich’s Department Stores from when we used to visit family in Atlanta. What I REALLY miss is the baby and children’s department at Hecht’s! Lovely items for both girls and boys, and when you timed their sales with the ever-present coupons from the newspaper, you could get great deals 🙂 .

        • Susan, I really miss the days when department stores had their own distinct identities and personalities, before Macy’s ate them all up. I can remember my friend who grew up in Springfield used to talk about “Woody’s and Hecht’s” in the same way I talked about “Rich’s and Davison’s.” There was a time when all cities and suburbs did not look basically alike. While I appreciate familiarity and being able to find a store when I need one, I do wish everything wasn’t QUITE so much alike!

  5. mike c.

    It is never too late to have a happy childhood.” Mark Twain.

    • I wonder how one would do that? Re-writing the story, maybe, if only in one’s own mind? In any case, though it is fashionable among some to go back and de-construct childhood happiness to find hidden dysfunction, I have no reason or inclination to do that. Though not perfect, my childhood was a gift that keeps on giving, and I will always be grateful for that.

  6. mike

    And the ever present camera. BTW have you seen the action figure for the famous -most famous -librarian in Seattle, Nancy Pearl? You can find these at the store Archie Mcfees also from seattle, but they have a big on-line presence. They also have a Jesus action figure- I have one. Marian the Librarian? No/ Rachel the reader? No. it is. Come on now she also wrote—Book Lust. A couple of these. It will come to me. I think she also has a characteristic bun.

    • Hi Mike. When you sent me her name, I went back and edited it in. A Jesus action figure? Really? Somehow it seems incongruous, though I don’t know why. Maybe I don’t know exactly what an action figure is. All I can think of is G. I. Joe. Does the Librarian action figure come with a book that opens and closes? A computer? And of course– a pair of glasses? 🙂 (Bun optional.)

  7. Mike C

    Yes I bought our pastor one -a Jesus action figure. A little irreverent don’t you think. They also have many Nun toys – too many i believe at Archie McPhees. You can see them on line there if you dare.
    But Nancy Pearl is a wonderful librarian.

    • Yes, it does strike me as a bit irreverent, if only because such commercial products are so kitschy. Of course, some faiths would see any visual representation of deity (including high art) as irreverent or even blasphemous. Most Christians are not iconoclastic, but an action figure is a little bit much. However, I seem to remember my sons in childhood having David and Goliath action figures (that somebody gave them) and also a Daniel, complete with lion (also a gift from someone). In fact, I think we may still have the lion somewhere.

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