The False Glory of Childhood
The warmth of remembering keeps me young forever.
By Alison Rattle, Associate Editor
Life is full of cruelties, so I bide my time, basking in the false glory of childhood.
My feet are rooted in my elementary school playground. My hands are clean, clinging onto my innocence like my childhood teddy bear as though it will prevent me from darkness. My heart is not tired of beating or yearning. I keep waiting for recess, Santa, and to get taller, but nothing changes. The warmth of remembering keeps me young forever, and my potential is as full as the moon.
School mornings smell like frost and fresh apples and clean clothes. The kiddie pool is the biggest ocean I’ve swam in and the monkey bars are the tallest mountain I’ve seen. My smile is as wide as the sky. The colours are brighter here, and so is the future.
Childhood nostalgia is a powerful form of escapism. As adult life gets hard, it’s so easy to think back and dream about the simplicity of childhood. It was the good old days, when
we didn’t have any responsibilities, except to dream. We didn’t know about all the bad things about the world, credit card bills, or taxes. At school, we used to make crafts and have pizza parties—today, we just cram for midterms or wait in the neverending Starbucks line at Robarts. Is it so wrong to want to remember when we were younger and life was still simple?
Yet life was never that simple. When I was a child, everything seemed so permanent; I thought freezies and friendship bracelets would last forever. In reality, childhood is a blink in time and youth is a fleeting feeling. But those are intense, formative years. Childhood is a gentle, sweet slumber, but it is also a wild dream, both whimsical and nightmarish at once. Colours are brighter there, and so are feelings. There is no soft, muted scarlet—only the ripe blood-red of candy and anger.
Childhood was simple, but also earth-shattering. Everyday emotions were heightened. Have you ever tripped and fallen as an adult? You probably stood up and walked away, maybe with a few bruises to your elbows and your ego, but you felt fine. Why? Because you knew you were going to be okay, because you had fallen before and you were okay. But when you’re a child, you don’t know you’re going to be okay because this has never happened to you before. You don’t have your past experiences to guide you, only your instincts and a little voice in your head, fearful but curious nevertheless. Tantrums were the only currency of sadness. Happiness was given generously but stripped away without mercy. Life seemed different.
Nostalgia makes us remember childhood as something shiny, something that shimmers with untouchability and novelty. It overwhelms us. We can never go back, and that makes us want to even more. But while life was different, it was also the same as it is now: happy, sad, confusing, messy, and real.
So when I look back at my childhood and visit the ghosts of playgrounds past, I try to remember it for what it is—the good old days, but also the bad ones. Everything back then was simple and scary and never-ending. Looking at the past is like looking through a mirror. I see a little girl and all her familiar flaws, all her dreams that now sit dusty on a shelf. We have the same eyes, but mine are a bit dimmer and a bit wiser. I look at her, and I think about how innocent she was, but I also think about how much she doesn’t know. I think about how much I’ve grown and the experiences that have made me the person I am today.
While I’m thankful for my memories of growing up, I know not to let myself get swept away by the waves of my past. My childhood was not perfect, but neither am I today. From time to time, I’ll allow myself to walk down memory lane, but it will only be a
quick visit. I admire the smell of sunscreen and the sound of make-believe, swirling feelings of nostalgia and naiveté. The sun never sets here. The air is lighter.
Maybe it’s just a trip down memory lane, but as I look around at my elementary school playground and my teddy bear in hand, I can’t help but think that all roads lead here.