If You're Suffering From On-Set Adulthood, Take This With A Warm Glass Of Milk

A Secret Garden…? You had one. I did too. We all did. But somehow, with on-set adulthood, we lost it. This is how it is with very serious 21stC rational adults. And yet, somewhere the fragrance of our childhood’s Secret Garden still giggles in our thoughts.

Far too many of us permit those gardens to languish in the mists of ignored memories. Others, like me, recall them with a furious affection. Not embarrassed by them so much as enthused. After all, that Garden was most likely the most rapturous hideaway we shall ever know. May I share excerpts from a colleague [Emily Fox Gordon] whose furious affections help reassure me I do not giggle alone:

“The happiness of childhood is existential. Not psychological. Adults forget that, probably because of envy….As a small child I was wildly, unconditionally happy. By that I don’t mean I was ‘well adjusted;’ I mean that all my receptors were attuned to the world…I was happy because I felt myself to be safe and free, but also because I managed to maintain three happy, if unsubstantiated and mutually contradictory, beliefs…I believed in fairies, in God, and in history….What I feel when I summon up those images is my aboriginal happiness, magically retrieved….It’s true my happiness was founded on a childish misunderstanding of reality. Nevertheless, I was happy, and my happiness was real. Only in stories can conflict and sadness be recorded, but when I was small, my life had not yet become a story. It was not made of incidents, susceptible of being linked into a continuing narrative. Instead, life was simply a succession of moments of radiant apprehension…Where I grew up is still in my mind, absolutely intact and eerily accessible. But only to me. The purer the happiness, the less communicable it is….Now as an adult, the story I tell over and over is the one everyone has learned for themselves — the story about how happiness is lost.”

I wish I had written that. But no matter. I once lived that. If you were lucky — in some tight little neighborhood — you and your peers lived it too. And if you are extraordinarily lucky, you can still share your garden with special others. After all, what else are special gardens for…?

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