"Age does not make us childish, as they say,
It only finds us true children still."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I was well into middle age when a batch of tiny blemishes broke out across my face. Since I hadn't even had that problem as a teenager, I was sure the unsightly blobs were a sign of something serious, and lost no time getting to a dermatologist.
The diagnosis? "Adult acne," the amused doctor said.
Relieved that I had nothing more than a case of wounded pride, I still wondered how a woman of my age could suddenly come down with a malady I should have suffered - and conquered - in adolescence. The doctor was quick, and still amused, with his reply.
The cause? "Second childhood, of course."
Last weekend, as my grandchildren and I sat under a candy-striped tent on Fort Gordon's Barton Field, thoroughly enjoying the delightful Royal Hanneford Circus, I remembered my acne episode and smiled. Not all returns to childhood are causes for alarm. I loved the prancing ponies, daring acrobats, hand-standing elephants and cuddly, people-impersonating poodles just as much as my little ones did, if not more. I had the added pleasure of providing pleasure for them.
Ever since my children's progeny began arriving more than 20 years ago, I've had so many "second-childhood" experiences I've lost count. With my first grandchild I rediscovered fishing. "No," I told the gentleman at the store where we bought our equipment, "we're not going to catch fish. We're going fishing."
There's a difference, you know. When you stop being so specific about the kind of fish you're after, you don't have to match hook, line and bait to a particular kind of fish. In the bait category, peanut butter and bread crusts work just fine. Plus, all that saves money, and keeps you from forcing a 5-year-old's attention span to match your investment in his gear.
My childhood regression took a different route with the next three. I've seen every production Storyland Theater has ever made, and every Disney or prototype movie to hit the big screen. Though I did recognize a couple of movies and a few of the stars nominated for Sunday's Academy Awards, I can tell you all about the Veggie Tales Jonah movie - an Oscar winner in my book. That mass choir singing and swaying in the belly of the big fish was some of the best music I've ever heard on film.
Brother Bear and the Christmas movie, Elf, were among this year's winter delights, and we're counting the weeks until Home in the Barnyard, or some such movie starring talking cows, cattle-drives into town. But with my all-time favorite children-of-all-ages movie still Shrek, I'm counting the weeks until the sequel to that lovable, monster movie arrives.
Perhaps I'm misleading you by calling my fishing/circus/movie experiences a return to childhood. Actually, except for fishing near my rural, New England home - with a slender branch, a few yards of twine and plentiful, home-grown worms for gear --I didn't do many of those other childhood things I'm enjoying now. Although the Saturday movie matinee cost only 11 cents at the time - and there were no concession stands - even that was pricey for our family. Besides, we didn't have a car and it was a bit far to walk.
But, I should add, when we had the money even if we walked, we were never worried about danger on the road or inappropriate, not-for-children scenes on the screen. The only movie warning I can remember was my mother's fear that I'd be upset by the bloody battle scenes in Gone With the Wind.
ome to think of it, maybe there's another reason why this umpteenth trip backward is so much fun for me. Compared to those old, 11-cent movies, being able to provide my little ones with an occasional outing seems positively affluent to me.
Besides, since price isn't the only difference between amusements then and now, I would never send a child to a theater alone today, nor would I sanction any attraction until it had been filtered through well-informed adult eyes.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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