There are second-graders touring the library today, and my first thought is how cute they are; they’re just a few months older than my niece, and it makes me happy to see kids her age. There’s a little girl scratching another girl’s back, almost maternally, which kills me. One little blonde girl is holding her teacher’s hand.
Then I remember, suddenly, what I can’t see from the outside—that these sweet-looking children have their own hierarchy, a social structure that probably makes some of them dread going to school. I remember what elementary school was like for me, and I realize that although I can’t tell who is who, some of these kids are bullies; some are taking their place as the “cool” ones; and some of these adorable, tiny children have already learned how arbitrarily cruel people are.
I started this post a while ago and left it sitting as a draft, and now I can’t remember why I named it “Bubble Girl.” Maybe I was thinking that I need a bubble, only to keep out feelings instead of germs.
I just had the most beautiful flash of a memory from childhood—that time around sixth or seventh grade, before you’ve totally grown out of your actual child-ness and into a teenager. I was in the backyard of the house we lived in when we first moved to Texas. Our backyard was an acre, the front half just grass and a trampoline, the back half our own little forest of oak and pecan trees, and for just a little while, there was a time when we had a hammock. I remember a day in the fall, the sharp white rope digging into my skin, looking up through the leaves with a book in my hands.
(Not fall, but you can see the hammock.)
Adults like to romanticize childhood as free from responsibility, based on the fact that kids don’t have to pay bills, but if you think about it—childhood is nothing but adults making you do things you don’t want to do. Actually, there’s a good chance I was supposed to be doing something else, probably mowing the lawn or cleaning my room with my sisters. But I wouldn’t have been thinking about that. Back then, when I read a book, I was in it. I could sit in the living room with my five siblings running around chasing each other, shouting, fighting, and watching Power Rangers—but I’d be aware of none of it. I miss that, almost as much as I miss the trees.
I really miss those trees.