08 October 2005

Being Five

I remember the time when I wasn't all elbows and knees, but my body flowed easily and cosily from me. When I fitted in a parent's hug as snugly and perfectly as is possible, and could sit on a hip or ride on shoulders in complete trust, without thinking about where to put what.

When all my now adult nerve endings were packed tightly together and alive all day. When I had chubby little hands that longed to explore and relish everything, and the feel of a huge, round apple was a miracle in itself. When Golden Syrup was the most wonderful joy of texture and scent and taste. Smells and sights were also so much more - even cardboard or wrapping paper or each new morning; every new corner turned, every crack in the pavement all had their multisensory song to sing, and it was glorious.

I remember my mother being an all enveloping hug, and my father's eyes twinkling and bursting with pride as he told me I was the most beautiful little girl in the whole wide world, and it must be true, because he said so. I remember the absolute confidence of being loved, and wanted, and safe and special.

Even going to sleep was exciting - lions and tigers and crocodiles and fairies and flying and making the world smile and dispensing happy-ever-after, as far as wisdom is black and white and obvious when you are that age.

Everyone you ever met was honest and trustworthy, kind and true. Everyone was enveloped in this joy for life.

I vaguely recall, as a first year infant at school, being on self appointed playground duty, ready, if someone (anyone) tripped, to rush over and kiss their grazed knee better. Kisses made knees better; it was a fact. Kissing was what you did to a sore knee, and then the world was all mended. I must have blustered my way through groups of older kids, like a nurse on a mission, to kiss the knees of complete strangers, but at that age strangers didn't exist, we were all just people; children.

The day of the infant's sports is the day I began to grow up. There I was, my turn at the starting line, and as we tiny, chunky, uncoordinated little people began our best lolloping efforts to get to the finish; a ribbon held up (or almost down) to our chest height by two smiling teachers. As I did what I was told (and ran without understanding the concept or the purpose at all), a group of girls started chanting my name, meaning to urge me on and support me.

"Cheryl, Cheryl, Cheryl!" I was supposed to be doing what the teachers told me, and heading for the finish line, but these girls (one of them the girl from our corner sweet shop) seemed insistent; they just never stopped calling my name. So I stopped. I turned round, and I asked them what they wanted.

That was my first taste of preferential treatment, my first awareness that I made any impact at all other than simply being. It was my first realisation that people I didn't know had formed opinions of me, that bigger girls were in bigger classes and that they felt a sense of belonging to that, over and above belonging to humanity. It was the first step on the road to discernment and with that came image consciousness and concern, a tiny taste of responsibility, of societal expectation.

But I remember the time before that; I remember being five.

Zilla asked when I was happiest. I guess that was when I knew that the world was a miracle, a bundle of amazing experiences; when I was closer to God than I have ever been since, without even knowing it at the time, nor ever associating that magical awareness with the old grey bearded man I thought lived on the moon, (because that was, after all, very high up in heaven.)

I was happiest when my sole purpose was to absorb the joy and share it, to uphold a world view where pain went away with a kiss and a hug, and hope, faith, trust and delight were life's essentials which showed in every face I looked at.

When I get to heaven I am going to be five.


doris said...

The juices are flowing aren't they? :-)

And you are making my eyes prick again.

It sounds wonderful and special when you were five and younger. Wonderful.

On the other hand, you speak longingly and as if you have lost the power of all that joy and excitement and adventure and discovery?

I might be wrong but it almost sounds as if life has gone downhill. I wonder if we do our kids a dis-service when they have such lovely experiences of growing up because adult life can never match up to the glories of a wondrous childhood. I'm thinking out loud here - because I know you didn't have everything easy but you certainly do have some lovely memories to recall.

I have a friend from my school days who is stuck in a mental limbo between the magical childhood she had and what is reality of being an adult. On the other hand, I had it rough as a kid so things could only get better - in my mind!

Cheryl - I hope you can bring alive some of those special feeings from when you were five and bring them into your life now.


bart said...

damn, cheryl,

this is one of the nicest posts i've ever read, thank you for your insightfulness... i suspect most people would like to become five again and be able to trust themselves and the world around them on the basis of childish truthfullness and honesty...

how far we have come in becoming adults, and how much we have left behind... mourn the fate of the parent who has forgotten what it was like to be five...

keep well....

fineartist said...

This piece is amazing. I found myself trying to remember back when I was five. It’s a bit blurry for me, but I am enjoying a vicarious peace from your memories.

Ally said...

That is such a brilliant piece of writing! And you are so lucky to have those memories so clearly- mine are very blurry, almost non-existant.

Jennifer said...

Absolutely rich and beautiful. What a lovely recounting of a lovelier memory in time.

dog1net said...

Your essay captures so well both the innocence and amazement of a child's view of the world, a view you so vividly describe that I found myself looking back to the time I was five years old, too.
Enjoyed. . .