Credit: Courtesy of Salvation South
Recapturing Our Carefree Childhood
How well do you remember what you were like when you were only eight years old? Most of us would never dream of doing the things we did when we were kids. But have you ever wondered whether thinking like an eight-year-old could be a great thing? Salvation South editor Chuck Reece has a story about that in this week’s commentary.
Chuck Reece: Being eight was great.
A couple of months ago, I was reminded of that when a submission came in to Salvation South, the magazine I edit.
It was from someone I had gone to high school with in Ellijay, Georgia. Her name was Cyndi Green. When I saw the submission, I wasn’t at all sure it was the same Cyndi I went to school with, because she spelled her last name with an E at the end, and the submission had no E. But it actually was my friend from high school. Turns out she had married a man named Mike Green, whose name had no E at the end. Which made her proper married name — check it out — Cyndi Greene Green.
That doesn’t matter. What matters is that Cyndi had sent me the kind of story I rarely get. Stories of childhood memories pop up in our submissions frequently, but they’re not usually happy memories, and they rarely go back to age eight. Cyndi’s story for us was focused on an enormous maple tree in the front yard of the house where she grew up.
“School was out,” she wrote, “and Carefree was my middle name.”
She recalled sitting on the front steps, wondering what to do with the day. “That,” she wrote, “was when a brilliant idea came to my eight-year-old self: I would climb the tree and then change my clothes—well, at least my shirt so as not to fall and break my neck—without a single passerby ever being the wiser.”
Only an eight-year-old would think of a trick like that. As adults, we mostly think about things we could do that might attract the attention of other people.
FX: Camera flashes, crowd noise
Chuck Reece: We want to be lauded for our achievements. But when we were eight and Carefree was our middle name, we wondered, “What could I do today that nobody but me will ever know about?”
Imagine what might happen if all of us got up tomorrow thinking about doing something good that nobody but us would ever know about. Maybe load up some groceries and drop them at the community food bank? Maybe drop a few bucks into the cup held by the fellow holding a sign that says “homeless vet”?
Cindy finished her story this way:
“To this day, I see the springtime maples as so much more than splendid shade trees to carry us through the heat of summer. I feel the joy of my imagination, like the warmth of the sunshine falling softly on my face. I see my front porch steps. And I yearn for the simplicity of my eight-year-old existence.”
I’m glad I grew up with somebody like her.
You can read Cyndi’s full story at SalvationSouth.com.
Salvation South editor Chuck Reece comments on Southern culture and values in a weekly segment that airs Fridays at 7:45 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on GPB Radio. You can also find them here at GPB.org/Salvation-South and please download and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as well.