I'm not sure what it is about the closing of the year that brings out the melancholy and retrospection of days long past. Perhaps it's the holidays. Perhaps it's the weather. Regardless of the cause, it happens. Last night I dreamt I was still a child. This subconscious vision was completely surreal; I saw my grandmother (who's been dead for 15 years), my parents were still together, my brother was bopping around with his Greatest American Hero pajamas on. The dog was barking — he's been a memory for more than 20 years, as well. It was Christmas eve.
For a brief interlude, I was an innocent 4th grader again. I could smell egg nog and fresh coffee and pies. The decorated tree was not something that I dreaded taking down come the first of the year; it was a magical symbol of the season, a guardian to the presents underneath. My thoughts were quick, yet simple. Honest, yet uncertain. The idea that my grandmother would someday be gone was not a thought that I entertained. My parents would always be young, in love, and happy. My brother would wear those silly pajamas every night until he got married — which I never foresaw, either.
As for me, however, I dreamed of poetry and music. Life was to be lived in the greatest of beauty; I expected that even then. I knew for certain that one day I would be carried off into the sunset by a handsome prince to a place where life would always be beautiful. My castle awaited. And happily ever after was a mystic, far off destination where my perfect children would be raised. I would spend my days writing poetry and my nights dancing under a velvet heaven with my prince.
The waking world steals my innocence. I am soon to be 34; the 4th grade is a gray memory now. My grandmother has indeed passed on. My parents are divorced; my father is ailing. My brother is a man who's been married — and divorced. I have never been rescued by a prince, nor does my castle await. My children are not perfect; my son, although intelligent, has ADD and an attitude. My daughter is sweet but too sensitive. And I am no poet.
I still dream of poetry and music, however. Some things never change. The opposite of innocence is wisdom, I believe. Wisdom is not cheap.. and it does not come easily. Although my innocent visions have been somewhat tainted, I still know that life is beautiful. That is the lesson of wisdom. It is the very lesson of life, if we allow it to teach us.
There is no happily ever after. There are only moments of clarity when the fragments of youthful innocence manage to pierce our thoughts. It is those moments when wisdom and innocence take a cordial bow and dance together under a velvet heaven.