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Bringing Back Childhood Joy

by Maria Shimizu Christensen 4 months ago in happiness
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You can find me reading under the covers

Bringing Back Childhood Joy
Photo by Klim Sergeev on Unsplash

The light clicked off and I waited, eyes shut tight, as the footsteps faded down the hallway. I knew I should probably wait a little longer – adults were tricky beings – but I couldn't. I just couldn't. My hand slowly crept toward the edge of my bed and down under the mattress where my stolen flashlight hid during the day.

I’d taken it from the box of camping supplies in the garage and I couldn't decide if I’d play innocent if it was discovered missing, or put it back before our next family camping trip. I’d probably have to practice looking innocent because I didn’t want to go a single night without that dim circle of yellow light illuminating my joy. It wasn’t a very good flashlight, but it was good enough.

In the time-honored way of all children enthralled with the places stories can take you, I made a tiny fort with my pillows and blankets, grabbed a book from my bedside table, and pressed the button on the flashlight.

I spent my childhood wandering past where the sidewalk ended, traveling the prairies with Laura, yearning to be Harriet the Spy, soaring and diving with Jonathan Livingston Seagull, wishing I could be friends with Frog and Toad, and living in Middle Earth with the hobbits. I grew a little older and scribbled with Jo in her attic and wondered, like Margaret, when I would get my first bra. I cried with Cassie in “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” and wanted to live with a wolf pack like Julie.

And then I left the pretty pink sheets and blankets of childhood behind me and no one checked to make sure the lights were off. Bleary-eyed mornings followed nights of solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, and riding dragons on Pern, propped against my pillows. I delved into historical fiction with James Michener, flew through distant galaxies in the pages of science fiction, and fell in love with the language of “Pride and Prejudice”.

And then I grew up. As often happens, I had children. After a series of unfortunate events we found ourselves alone, every night, curled up in bed with a book. The wolves were at the door but they couldn’t get in, no matter how hard they blew. We cuddled under blanket forts in a nest of squishy pillows, feeding cookies to mice, giggling at Captain Underpants, and traveling in a magic school bus.

The kids grew a little older, and my voice a little hoarser, but still we traveled to distant lands. We got goosebumps around campfires, and went to school at Hogwarts. We thought the stories would be never ending, but all things come to an end, and as the children read more to themselves, the blanket forts collapsed from disuse. A new chapter in life is always a little bit sad from a parent’s point of view.

The kids are grown up and I still read to myself every night before sleeping, but it’s not the same. Reading is an escape, but when it’s born of desperation to escape the daily grind, the sorrows and hardships that can’t really be fled from, it changes from action to reaction. From joy to distraction. I want to change that.

I want to love the things I love.

Wait, you say. How does that even work? If you love something, you love it. Yes, but you can also take it for granted. It can become a habit, automated, without much thought, and I want to think about the things I love. It isn’t about gratitude. It’s about consciously taking joy in the things I do and love.

It’s about lazy, squishy, goose downed weekend mornings, reading a book in my pajamas. It’s about going to bed earlier so I can read longer. I’ve been reading so long that no matter how tired I am I will read a single page before shutting down the day. Muscle memory picks the book up but I can’t say for certain any more that it’s a choice I’m making in the moment.

I tried to explain this to my daughter once, and for Christmas she gifted me a special triangular reading pillow that props up and holds books open. I am delighted in the cheerful floral print of its cover and it fits perfectly in my lap as I lean against my headboard. It needs companions. It needs oodles of downy pillows and piles of soft, furry blankets. It needs an hour of reading every night to settle in to a new, joy-filled routine, and that is what I am choosing to do.

I am reading for the love of stories. I am not de-stressing or escaping whatever has happened that day to mess with my peace. I am taking the unpressured, luxurious time to love what I love.

Where in the world will I go every night? Distant galaxies and Station Eleven are calling my name. I will check into the hotel where the bitter and sweet streets meet, and travel roads less traveled. I’ll learn to play pachinko, break codes, and pass time with the night watchman. I will revisit old friends and make new ones.

I will fall asleep every night with a smile on my face and a hug in my heart. And who knows, maybe I will enter dreamland under the comforting warmth of a blanket fort. Are you ever, really, too old for a blanket fort?


About the author

Maria Shimizu Christensen

Writer living my dreams by day and dreaming up new ones by night

The Read Ink Scribbler

Bauble & Verve


Also, History Major, Senior Accountant, Geek, Fan of cocktails and camping

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