Back to Childhood Roots? Grown up? Somewhere in Between . . .

A few weeks ago a friend asked me: “Do you remember what it was like to be a kid?” At the time, I wasn’t really sure. The question took me by surprise, but the more I think over it, the more I think it might be the right question to be asking this summer. Or at least, that’s the way the world seems to be pushing me.

My summer jobs this year keep putting me in the path of families with young children. Before I left Rice, I applied for nannying jobs. That didn’t work out, but I have been out babysitting for a few friends. It’s different to take a walk with two young children in tow, but they do make it more interesting with their funny kid songs and their own made-up parodies. More importantly, my other two jobs put me around families daily and in two different contexts. At the local library I watch all sorts of kids pick out books for the first time and, grinning ear to ear, proudly come up to the desk to give me their summer reading logs. Ah, to be a kid, excited to the point of jumping up and down for a book. It has even led me to revisit some of my favorite childhood authors, like Eva Ibbotson. She’s not very well known, but she’s a great historical fiction and children’s fantasy writer. I’ve definitely grown past her reading level, but I still found some gems in The Dragonfly Pool that spoke to me even as an adult about how to stick to your beliefs and how to truly treasure your friends.

The encounters I have with children are very different at Target. Most of the time I find myself working in the Infant and Baby section. I didn’t know anything about those sorts of supplies for children but I find myself re-stocking baby food, diapers, and onesies for hours on weekend nights. Sometimes it’s enlightening like my experiences at the library. I love watching a child’s face light up and helping grandmothers pick out all the Spiderman gear we stock for a grandson’s birthday. Other times it feels like all good children come to Target to scream . . .

Either way, it has been interesting to watch all this unfold, to watch my community grow and realize that my place in it has changed. My family moved here when I was in elementary school. It’s crazy to think that I’ve lived in the same family home for so long. It really hit me when my parents and I were driving back from the lake on Independence Day. We passed my elementary school and old hang-outs like the softball fields where I learned how not to get bored playing left field and eventually how to prove myself as short stop. We passed the huge mall and shopping centers that cropped up when I was in high school and discussed how our neighborhood used to just have fields on either side of the entrance, instead of office buildings, bakeries, and other businesses. When we pay attention, it’s amazing to see how much they mark the passage of time–the tangible signs of Austin’s booming growth.

Looking back on my friend’s question, I do remember being a kid sometimes. I remember how serious I used to be when I rode my bike around the neighborhood, but also how easy it was to jump on my scooter, ride around the block, and find one of my friends to play with for the afternoon. I remember what it felt like to swim in the pool over the summer, my sister and I begging my mom to jump in and play mermaids with us. On the other hand, I’ve been so focused this summer on working hard and preparing very grown-up things for next year such as apartments, visa applications, and much much more that it’s nice to be reminded of more simple joys. It’s okay to take a break and hole up in the movie room with my mom, to go to the Grease sing-a-long (dressed up Poodle skirt style of course) and belt every lyric out as loud as possible, and to eat some ice cream because it is summer after all. Not only will it help me relax, but re-connecting with my childish side can only help me tap into my writer’s imagination.

Happy Dog Days of Summer. Wishing you all the ability to see life from your child’s eyes, even if only for an afternoon.

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About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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