I believe that childhood can be relived. I stumbled upon this truth a while ago as I looked through photos I had taken during a playground outing with my husband and toddler son. I recall one photograph in particular gave me pause: I had managed to capture the moment when, on a swing, he had just started to descend from the highest point. You know, the part where you feel lighter in the seat and your stomach does a little flip? The feeling lasts only a fraction of a second. His hair was standing on end, his tiny hands gripped the chains that held the swing, his eyes were shut tight, and his smile was as big as it could get. It was undeniable that the look on his face was one of absolute joy. I thought how our faces, if the camera had been turned towards us in that same moment, would have mirrored the joy on his face. We too were feeling the absolute joy of reliving that particular experience all over again.
As I never did when I was a child, I savor as much of this relived childhood as possible because I know it goes by so fast. I am sometimes given to sadness when I realize I will be sending my son away to college before I know it, where I will experience life with him from a distance. In the meantime, I participate in his life to support him through the lows and to help him discover this world than can bring so much happiness, such as that moment on the swing. My “reliving” is, of course, only a happy side effect.
A few weeks ago, I was spending time with my son and my mother. I turned towards her to see if her face mirrored her grandson’s while playing. Would she show herself reliving childhood? I was surprised to see her looking at me. Her face, although mirthful like my son’s, resembled what I realized to be mine. It gives me hope. When my son’s childhood and my “relived” childhood are packed up in boxes to be moved to college, I will try to remember that moment with my mother. Someday, I will get to unpack that experience again but will experience it doubly. Reliving another childhood will be wonderful. Watching my son find joy in his reliving will be, I can only predict, like that moment in a swing. I will feel that lightness and my stomach will do a little flip.