Monday, May 12, 2014

Through the eyes of children...

Yesterday I had my small family over to my apartment to celebrate Mother's Day.  I say small family, but when I try to cram everyone into my apartment it feels like hosting a football team.  I'm not sure how we all managed to fit into my dining room, but we did ---- only once you sat down, you had to stay there! 

My niece (2) and my nephew (5) were also there.  As my friends and family would tell you, I'm not exactly paternal.  My apartment isn't what you'd call kid friendly and I must admit... neither am I.  When God was giving out that nurturing gene that gives one the urge to get on the floor and play with kids and speak fluently in gibberish, I was too busy waiting in line for my "cranky old man" gene.   I put on my bravest front and pretended that I wasn't having mini strokes every time the kids picked up something that was sitting on a shelf or table.

My niece and nephew really are good kids - and my OCD aside, the night went very well.  My apartment has an interesting feature that everyone else but me finds fascinating.  It has a "turret room" off the living room.  It's called that because this part of the house is shaped like the turret of a castle.  Due to it's small space, angled ceilings and lack of heat in the winter... it's just used as storage for all my many boxes of... stuff.  To me it's just an attic space -- but for others it seems to be an area of intrigue.  In fact, when someone comes to my house for the first time I will politely ask my mother before they come to not include the turret room on the tour.  After all.. who shows off their messy attic when they have company over?  I slaved for hours to dust and polish the rest of the place... so don't look behind the little door off the living room to see where the real mess is hidden, please.

On the few occasions my nephew has come over I normally don't allow him into that room -- for two reasons:  1.  It's a mess in there.  2. Children break stuff (so the little voice in the back of my mind tells me).  Finally though, I relented and let Collin and Brittany go into the mysterious turret.

Collin behaved himself and left my piles of junk alone... but the kid was in amazement.  You could see and hear his imagination going at full speed.  My mother turned to me and said, "this is something he will remember for the rest of his life.".  I don't know that it will stay in his memory the rest of his life since my apartment isn't a regular part in his routine, but it got me thinking of when I was a kid and would explore the world... at least the world as I knew it... on my own.

Usually this exploration occurred at my Grandma's house.  There were two great "worlds" to explore there:  Uncle Vinny's room and the crawl space.  Like a child entering Narnia, the crawl space was a magical world hidden in the back corner of the basement...dark...and full of treasures.  Treasures left over from the "old house" (the house they had lived in a few years before I was born).  Treasures from the 50s and 60s that I am convinced helped to spark my love of anything relating to the first half of the 20th century.
Because I can remember my own explorations as a kid, I think I am all the wiser about.. and more leery of little kids.  I know your plots kids because I used to be you!  My older brother and I would constantly explore my Uncle's room -- the electric guitar tucked away under his bed, the treasure chest (yes - he literally had one!) on the night stand by his bed -- and the record albums of bands I had never heard of before (after all, he didn't have the Sesame Street Gang's Biggest Hits album...sadly). 

In my defence though, I was always very cautious when "exploring" Grandma's house.  Yes, I went into boxes I shouldn't have -- closets that were off limits (there's a joke there somewhere), but I was always very careful to preserve with the utmost care the objects I was - discovering.  For me it was like being Indiana Jones in some far off temple finding priceless artifacts of some other world. They were to be treated with care and respect.  Like Indian Jones however... there was always that element of danger lurking behind every corner... mostly Grandma who would firmly remind us when we'd present her with what we had found that: "you didn't find it, I PUT IT THERE."

Today my Uncle Vinny (whose room we routinely explored) turns 50.  Yesterday I became acutely aware that a new generation was beginning to explore the world as they knew it and using their imaginations to conjure exciting and fantastic adventures where we adults see only boxes and clutter.  Though I will still hold my breath the next time the kids come to visit -- praying that my own treasures survive their excursions as I'm sure my Uncle and Grandma did for us - I marvel at their imaginations and curiosity and remember back to a time when even a trip down to Grandma's basement could become the adventure of a lifetime!