Out of Childhood

It was that time in early childhood when emerging awareness and seeming independence evoked a sense of enablement – to go about, at any hour, with no need for permission.

Barely aware of why, I knew intuitively long solitary walks nourished me greatly; a walk was exactly what I needed on that particular Summer’s eve.

And what an evening it was; one of those which so often arrives unbidden in a mid-west Summer – suffused with warm humid air, filled with an abundance of scents, sights and sounds, alluring and irresistible.  Distant places seemed all the more attractive in anticipation of transformed surroundings – ordinary and familiar by day, special and mysterious at night.

My sojourn, longer than originally anticipated, extended in response to the evening’s call to what lay a block or two, or a mile further. Though very young my ability to go places and distances, which ordinarily would be dangerously far for a child, was certain. I never thought about getting lost; that was something I never knew in our still-new edge of the city. I was completely confident that wherever the point, when I arrived, I would know that it was time to turn around and head home – by a different path.

Some upscale neighborhoods, a good distance from ours, were still adorned with older gas street lamps.  Those wondrously stately, softly glowing sentinels did not overwhelm the lazy pulses from countless fireflies. The glow from both seemed eerily similar – a soft yellow green that perfectly illumined the subdued yellows and dark greens of flowers, shrubs and trees slumbering quietly in moist evening air.

I passed seemingly endless blocks of fine homes (much statelier than ours) which awakened my imagination: what would it be like to live in one of these beautiful places! The soft light suffusing their windows drew me onward.  Were there ones just ahead more beautiful than the last?  How could people afford such places?  I was enthralled by occasional glimpses of fine, elegant, interiors.

My fantasies faded to reality.  I had indeed gone some distance; it was time to start back.  I decided on a different way home, one which I knew would take me by more of these wondrous places.  The reverse path, as it often did, seemed to take much less time than the one going out.  Time even then seemed capricious.  While puzzling over this, I hadn’t thought about the hour or what (more exactly who) awaited at home.

The final half-block was along the rutted dirt path that intersected our street. Still enthralled by the evening’s sojourn, I hadn’t noticed the auto (or my mother) at the curb in front of our home.

With the same exuberance that suffused my heading out on the evening’s journey, I approached the car. Initially mistaking the driver as a family relative, I failed to notice that the auto was a distinctive two-toned black and white.  Breaking into a brisk and chatty greeting to the driver, I suddenly froze mid-word – which gave the officer, and my mother, the opportunity to drill me in a decidedly unfriendly manner as to where I had been.

In a moment of terrifying awareness, I tore off toward the house – scarcely bothering to open doors in pursuit of the safest place imaginable: my bed, and as far under it as I could get.  No memory remains of emerging from my protective lair.


Countless millennia past many an adult-child wandered outside the tribal camp, exploring the riches which spread beyond the immediate home site. They saw wondrous, often dangerous, creatures – animate and inanimate. A world of wonder, excitement, the unknown. But they knew how and when to return safely to the home site. Returning they’d be greeted with excitement by their tribes-persons, and relate what had been seen and learned.

Ultimately our ancestors traveled across many lands, leaving behind not only their tribal camp but their primordial childhood. 

As we travel from child to adult, primordial childhood is submerged beneath millennia of civilization – careful, cautious, afraid of the unknown, reluctant to explore what lay beyond.

Yet at odd moments, the primordial memories arise unexpectedly. And for a few brief, aching moments, we remember. We remember.

-  RJ Christopher