When I think back on my childhood, my memories are technicolor—the leaves in my backyard are neon green and the creek nearby a liquid prism, chiming over every stone. I have tried my hardest to figure out whether I’m glorifying it all in retrospect, or if children’s senses are heightened—a sort of juvenile synesthesia. Regardless, I see my childhood as a perpetual golden hour, not always happy, but full of vivid sensation.
At some point, it stopped. Pressures and anxieties poured in from the outside, and I could see fewer colors and less light. The little things were no longer adventures, and the big things weren’t as fun. When? When did it change? Was it when I had the last of my baby teeth pulled, stubborn and refusing; Was it in middle school, when I woke up and cared more about how others saw me than how I saw the world; Was it when I first fell in love, and began giving pieces of myself away?
I wonder now, if the acceptance of outward stimuli transformed itself with the help of self-obsession, into the dull, constant pressure of my hair and nails growing, the faint tear of stretch marks, the sharp stab coinciding with the monthly expulsion of ovum from ovary.
The world has changed in measurable ways since I played make-believe with my best friend, under a giant willow tree with branches that hung down in a cylindrical curtain and created for us an inverted stage, a place we went not to perform for others but to act like ourselves, a place where skinny leaves on long, whip branches rustled in constant applause. Since then, tectonic plates have shifted, populations fluctuated, wars fought—with devastating effects. But children have been born; children who feel and see it all with new eyes. Brand-new eyes and ears and nerves. They’re not recycled or jaded yet, the way we are.
I want to emulate them. Relearn how to live in a way that not only makes retrospectively golden memories, but overwhelms my sense and senses in the present moment as well.
I watched my nephew, four, run across the sand to the water’s edge during our recent family beach trip. He shouted, playfully but truthfully, ow ow ow with each bound. The sand, even by 10 a.m., was hot, but I walked along behind him because the skin on the bottom of my feet was thicker than his from wear and use and years.
He found his respite in the cool ocean water, though I imagine he would describe it as cold. Ahh, he said and smiled. Then I looked out and tried to witness the scene the way he would—thunderous waves of teal and sapphire, chilled with ice; lace-white foam that tickled my ankles to the point of laughter. When I looked down at him, he was giggling. I knew he was tickled too, by the magic of it.