I’m reading yet another Bach book. This one so far appears to be about how he reconnected to his childhood from memories that he hadn’t as much suppressed as ignored, and what he learnt from them. It got me thinking about my memories. Because I realised in the hallway the other day just why I hated winter-clothes so much as a child. I always used to think it was because of the fuss of getting everything on and off, how wet it would be after coming inside, how you had to wear layer upon layer and get so overheated and drenched through despite its water-resistant qualities.
But as I struggled out of my thick jacket and practical boots yesterday morning, it struck me. It is because winter-clothes are so very restraining. A protective bubble of cloth and stuffing between you and the world, numbing your senses and perception. I was a summer-kid, running barefoot any place I could and often times places I shouldn’t, loving the feel of grass under my back as I gazed up into the endless blue. Or a fall-child, the wind tapering my clothes against me and ruffling my hair as I went in search for branches and pretty leaves in the crisp air. The heavy boots of winter, so very practical, shield your feet from the ground, making it impossible to quite grasp where you’re treading, and the thick coats, long scarves and downy jackets do their best to keep everything out, even sound.
Yet the memories of many a childhood winter are fond ones, where the snow was always thick on the ground and the cocoa warming in front of the fire-place. I find it strange, that so many of the few memories we have from childhood are extraordinary ones; traumatic ones, happy and exciting ones, dark and gloomy with a sense of forbearing. Why is it that we filter out all the regular, “unimportant” memories, as if there’s nothing to learn from a regular, everyday situation? Do we do this now too, though we’re not as aware of it? And what could we learn from our earliest errors, could we remember them?
Up to a certain age, life is like a flight of stairs. You can move up or down, side to side, pass people or fall behind, you can stop in the middle and ponder, always a rail nearby to hold on to should the going get tough. But very soon, we stop considering these choices, stop considering the wonder of just remaining in the moment and watching as everyone else zigzags by, and only take the escalators. Here the movement becomes much more restrained; you have to decide whether you want to go up or down, usually you just stick to the right-hand side, unless you’re in a hurry and walk past people on the left-hand side, and even then there might be someone blocking your way. Go further still and we just take the elevator. No choice here. Up or down, you can’t pass people if you want to, and moving side to side is not going to make any difference, except people might give you strange looks. Why do we limit ourselves so much, decide that there is only one path for us and then stick to that path, unable to move back to the good old manual stairway of choice?
The pressure to make a choice goes further and further down into the younger ages. Even at 20, if you haven’t decided what you want to do with your life yet and if you haven’t gotten some place, you consider yourself a failure and a disappointment. But the only person you are letting down is yourself, and why make a choice early on in life that you either stick with for the rest of it, unhappy that you made the wrong one, or ditch after a few years, starting from square one and considering those past years a waste of your time? How can we waste time when it’s an abstract concept, and why do we let ourselves be governed by it in just about everything?
Something that has occurred to me so very often is how we relate to our childhood years. We look at it as through cracked and smeared mirrors, far off, hazy, impossible to interpret. We look at it through grown-up eyes and judge the actions we took, the ones we didn’t and on top of it all, rewrite the way events happened to our own liking. But why judge the actions of a child, someone with far less experience than you, and so a much poorer judgement? Is it possible that the child you were would look at who you are today and judge what they see? This distorted view of events and reality distances us from our pasts to the point of detachment. We simply do not feel like that was us. How often do we not hear the phrase “I was a different person then” or “I was just a kid”? There’s nothing “just” about being a “kid”, that five-year-old or nine-year-old was just as much you as you are today. Yet we don’t even see ourselves as them, and all of a sudden our childhood becomes a movie, we ourselves the actors and our current, grown-up state the spectators.
So is it so wrong to look at that child through their own eyes, as we were, and say “that was me at ten years of age” or “that was me on my sixth birthday” instead of “back when I was a kid” as if the child you were and the person you are now are in no way the same? Are we scared that that inner child, if we let it loose, will be judged by other “grown-ups” as immature, naive, strange, unintelligent, instead of what it truly is; someone who sees the world not as they ought to, but for what it is to them, and acts accordingly? I say take off the grown-up, practical, shielding winter-clothes of your soul, and let the summer-child have a romp across the lawn every once in a while. You might enjoy it.