Missing Child

William - Manchester, New Hampshire
Entered on December 6, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

As a kid, I would pretend to be a monkey by putting gloves on my feet. Kids do things like that. I would also build forts with blankets and couch cushions and spend whole afternoons catching frogs and skimming rocks. At night, I made shadow puppets and read books under the covers with a flashlight. I lived for such things—the little things. Then I grew up.

Today, I live the predictable life of an adult. I wear suits to work, read memos, nod at my boss during meetings. I type emails relentlessly. I sit in rush-hour traffic and get frustrated. On the weekends, I’ll mow grass, unclog gutters, maybe nap in a recliner. Yet despite all this predictability, my inner-child survives. He lives against the grain as I struggle to embrace the little things, the silly things. I believe in my inner-child.

My office is a “grown up” place, crowded with cubicles and overworked employees. It’s where I once watched a colleague open a FedEx package and remove the contents. She didn’t notice, but I saw her handling the bubble-wrap like it was silk. She wanted badly to pinch each bubble, one by one, to feel the exhilarating pop between her fingers—but she didn’t. The adult, so efficient and practical, would have no part of it. Like an adult, she tossed the bubble wrap in the trash and returned to her cubicle. Popping bubble wrap, after all, doesn’t earn promotions or increase bottom-lines.

The inner-child pops bubble-wrap at every opportunity. The inner-child makes snow angels and has pillow fights and is never afraid to look silly. The inner-child doesn’t worry about death. He likes sugary cereal, hates fiber. Sleep, to the inner-child, is not rest but interruption. He is not vain or judgmental. An inner-child’s eyes are constantly wide with wonder because everything’s new.

Somewhere along the way, my world grew smaller and more predictable. I don’t know when it happened, but it was a spiritual death, when I hid away childish things and became a man. At once, I no longer welcomed blizzards or power outages that lasted hours. I became too dignified to pick up lucky pennies. The holiday season lost some of its magic and became a source of stress. Mom and Dad were no longer gods. My inner-child was hidden. Since then, he comes and goes.

Recently, after a particularly stressful day at work, I found him again. As my mind reeled with a thousand worries, I veered from my regular route home and drove a few miles out to a little pond where I used to skim rocks as a kid. With the sun setting in the distance, I closed the car door, loosened my tie, and went down to the shore. My eyes instinctively began to scan the ground for the perfect skimming rock. When I found one, smooth and flat, I stepped back and tossed it side-arm, as though twenty years meant nothing. For that brief moment, as the rock skipped along the surface, there was no such thing as a rat-race, there were no bills to pay, no emails to answer. There was just a child.