Oh, to be 11 or 12 or 13 again!
Or even 10. Any age before 14, because after this the board exams, the entrance exams etc. come along and ruin the peace that has reigns long over the period of innocent happiness- childhood. Whenever I read books featuring young girls, I feel like going back to those times. I’m not so grown-up now that I cannot imagine what it was like when I was a little girl, but I do miss those carefree days of playing in the park till dusk and doing homework. School was often fun, though holidays, of course, were welcome. I actually liked writing examinations because of the challenge they posed, and the delicious days when the report cards were given away.
Much has changed. Exams are no longer as charming as they were, and I think the word ‘homework’ is blasphemy when used in the context of college. Responsibility grows with age, and so does confusion. Life gets complicated, and while certain joys can be felt with a greater degree of satisfaction than they once were, some others have to be given up.
What triggered these thoughts in my mind was my third reading of the book Little Women. I was in school the last two times I read it, and so this session brought back vivid memories of those days. Meg and Jo March are now younger than I, and I found it a wee bit difficult, to my astonishment, to look at them as the grown-up, responsible girls I once believed them to be. I have always liked the protagonists of a book to be older than I- just an irrational, crazy thought. But that’s the way things were (and are, I guess), and I worshipped these characters born out of some brilliant people’s imagination. I still do. I know they’re all fictional, but I have the same fervent faith in them that I once did. I used to fancy I was Jo March, while my friends took the parts of Meg, Beth and Amy. I enjoyed writing, I got into tiffs with the boys, I took on the seniors at school. I sorely longed for a brother-friend like Laurie, and to use the ‘slang’ (words that would be considered rather respectful if compared to the slang of today) that Jo did. Now, sadly, I am more sensible, but I do have this little world tucked away somewhere in my heart, peopled by the kinds that everybody wants for friends and family but doesn’t really have. A good imagination is an extremely useful thing to have, as Anne Shirley might have said.
When we read What Katy Did, we were seized by the desire to play the ‘Game of Rivers’. So there we were, thirteen-year-old girls, running up and down the aisles of the classroom during recess, looking like absolute geese (to use one of the bookish words). But what chance does pretentious dignity stand against harmless girlish fun? We turned a deaf ear to the sarcasm of our classmates and played our silly games, even after the boys got tired of us and made a childish complaint to our class teacher. Such ninnies! (Okay, the complaint might have been made to retaliate to an equally preposterous complaint that we girls made- but why rake up past differences now!) I wanted to be a tomboy and tear my clothes. Never was, and never did. This comes of being born with an innate sense of orderliness.
I cried over books. I felt terrible when Beth died. I felt quite a void in my life when Anne Shirley grew up and got ready to go to college, as Marilla realised her beloved Anne would never be a little girl again. I sympathised with Katy Carr when she had to spend years in bed after hurting herself in a fall from a swing, and when Aunt Izzie died. When Captain Crewe died, I was upset for Sarah. Is it silly to cry over books? I don’t know.
Every one of us can probably write a whole book on the memories of childhood. However, I must make sure I enjoy every moment as it comes and not spend all my time thinking of the days gone by. Who knows, one day I might wish I were in college again!