Monday, June 4, 2012

Putting Away Childish Things

It's the last week of school in Frederick County.  Three more days until my baby is a kindergartner.  My daughter said yesterday, "This is how I transport myself back to my childhood" as she broke forth with the theme song to "Dora, the Explorer."  Then she laughed and said, "I know I'm sort of still in it.  But not really.  Because I'm growing up."  Oh, how she is.  And I have to confess, a part of me wishes we could remain in this golden moment of our (and their) lives forever.

From Madeleine L'Engle (courtesy of
“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be... This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages...the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide... Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I'm with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don't ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child's awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”  

Whew!  That makes me feel a little better.

My husband plays in a community band, and we drove an hour yesterday to a local band festival.  I was listening to the (very good) group before his and found my elementary school band director playing first trombone.  I approached him afterward -- I'm sure he had no idea who I was -- and told him that he'd been my teacher thirty years ago.  He shook my kids' hands and encouraged them to take up instrumental music.  Then I saw his skin was thin, mottled, he used a walker -- he must be at least 85.  But he was there, his face the same, his ability to play undiminished.  I told him that I played my flute into adulthood, and that I'd met my husband because we were both playing in the church choir.  He was a wonderful teacher, and I was so grateful for the chance to tell him what an impact he had on my life.  All these years later, I can remember the metal band chairs, Philip Garrant on clarinet to my right, Marty Martin on sax behind me, the sweltering room, the chalkboard where Mr. Taylor taught us about time signatures and offbeats.  I'm quite sure I can still play his arrangements of "Rudolph" and the theme to "Star Wars." 

Because I'm an army brat, I don't have an old family home or neighborhood to go back to.  All of the people from my early childhood who are not related to me have essentially vanished.  I cherish the memories, but I can't describe how much it meant to see him again. -- Jeanne Marie

P.S. Don't forget -- there's still time to enter our picture book giveaway! Don't miss your chance to win an autographed copy of Natalie Ziarnik's debut picture book, Madeline's Light (Boyd's Mills Press). See Esther's Student Success Story Interview with Natalie for details. 

Writing Workout  

Here's an exercise that will need to be adjusted for each age group, but my college students had great fun with it.  As we discussed audience and purpose, I asked each to write:

1. A text to a friend describing a night at a party.
2. The speech given to a parent later that night explaining why the student had missed curfew.
3. The email sent to me explaining why the student would not be in class the next day.

We shared around the table and had some good laughs.  Have fun!


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the great quote, JM. I've read lots of L'Engle's writing, but I don't recall ever coming across these words.

Linda B said...

It's a beautiful & poignant piece, about your daughter & your feelings, about growing up. Madeleine L'engle gets it right much of the time, doesn't she? I've been working to capture the different ages of children through poetry & it's not as easy as I thought it would be. Thanks for these sweet words.

Unknown said...

Oh, wow! I really needed that reminder. Awesome quote!