Do you remember distinct moments in your childhood? I have a few. But mine are all fuzzy around the edges. Scenes of my early life are in my mind’s eye, but there is a pane of glass separating me from the experiences; I watch myself detached, and the glass is fogged up.
It’s hard to remember myself as a kid. I feel like I’ve always been the “me” I am, so it’s hard to grasp what I used to think about and how I used to perceive life.
When I see my nephews and nieces, the echoes of childhood greet me, reminding me of what was and what might have been. I fill in the gaps with creative license.
Echoes are loud as I’ve observed my 5-year-old niece chat with her best friend, Bitty. Bitty is her American Girl Bitty Baby doll. Some conversations are spoken aloud for all to hear; she is not yet burdened with self-consciousness to edit herself—which I love. I’ve also watched them in shared whispers, of secrets unknown. These both warm my heart and pierce it. Bitty must hold the weight of my niece’s hopes and dreams within her well-loved body.
I was once much like my niece. I know it, in deepest part of me.
So when did I stop talking to my teddy bears and dolls and stuffed animals? And when did they stop talking to me? They were steady friends for me by loving choice (they always wanted me around) and also by default (they were always able to come-out-and-play, even when other friends could not).
It is bittersweet to see my niece and Bitty in their shared world, for I know someday my niece will forget to tell Bitty everything. Slowly, she will choose flesh-and-blood friends to receive her heart’s treasures and dreams. This is what I did and what we all do in the process of growing up. It’s natural, but it makes me sad nonetheless.
Shel Silverstein’s “Forgotten Language” captures this mournfulness completely:
Forgotten Language, by Shel Silverstein
Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?
I’ll be attempting to engrave this short melancholic piece on the tablet of my heart by the end of the month for the MMM3 challenge. In the process, I hope to clear away some of the fuzz from the edges of who I used to be.
Once I knew my teddy bear could hear me. If I could hear him today, he would remind me of all the things I used to say.