In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we found ourselves in an extended blackout and a daily routine reminiscent of camping. We fell into early bedtimes. We carried flashlights and embraced our imaginations to drive away the boredom. The kids quickly discovered that a dark house provides excellent hiding opportunities for playing Hide and Seek. Six-year old Sunboy mastered slipping into unlikely spaces and disappearing into the darkness, only to watch his two-year old sister Flowergirl run in circles, fruitlessly calling his name.
Watching my children hide in the darkness reminded me of evening gatherings at my grandparents’ house when I was a child. My cousins and I would play chase outside, and then hide in the shadows of trees. I can still hear them counting to twenty and the excited “here I come” followed by the quick pounding of young feet – now echoes in my mind as I hear my children do the same in real time. As children, we would peer inside my grandparents’ house to spy on the conversing adults. We thought we were sneaky, but in retrospect, they knew we were there.
Now Sunboy spies on me the way I spied on the adults of my childhood. I turn a corner and jump when I find him standing there unexpectedly. He looks at me like he’s been discovered. My memories had all but faded until I heard the same excited squeals and percussion of my children running around my house. A childhood game caught out of time.
The cycles of childhood and adulthood are traced as they spiral along the same paths, worn for the adults but fresh for the children. At a certain age, we all learn the same tricks, then forget them until the tricks are played on us by our own children. Each time moving through the cycle brings its own sense of adventure. The child’s cycle is about first discoveries and the parallel adult’s cycle is about re-discovery and reminiscing. Sometimes the spiral overlaps in a moment of shared childhood. We realize that we have created our own playmates, only a generation apart.
My family visits during holidays. Each night at bedtime, I take Sunboy upstairs to sleep while the adults continue their gathering. I lie next to him and we sleepily talk of the Solar System, dinosaurs and the fun of our day. Then we pause and hear the hazy conversations downstairs. The voices make muffled music through walls and hallways. Sunboy and I turn to each other and smile. He knows too. Suddenly, we are having a slumber party. We listen quietly. It doesn’t matter what the adults are saying, the sound is comforting in its familiarity. Like those summer nights chasing cousins and peeking through the window to listen to the adults’ unintelligible conversation.
One of the ways our children keep us young is through bringing old memories to the surface. We find a new bond with our children and become playmates for a moment. In each generation, the children write the story and the adults read it. The next cycle is underway, giving comfort in the recognition and continuity of ongoing co-discovery.
Kat Lehmann believes we are all in the process of becoming and have a choice in what we become. She is a scientist who writes prose poetry about parenting and nature, and can be found sneaking outside to look at the moon when not keeping up with her children Sunboy and Flowergirl. You can connect with her at http://www.nurturingandnature.