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Like A Kid Again

Like A Kid Again

By Steven A. Smith

I am not acting my age. More precisely, not acting my age as others might expect, as I expected.

It is something of a given that in our old age we revert to our younger selves. The so-called “second childhood,” turns out, is not just a baseless cliché.

In some ways I remain a fully realized, mature adult. I do adult things – drinking a fine single malt, smoking a good cigar, managing family finances, paying taxes, voting.

But in so many ways, I now act as I did when 6-, 7- or 8-years old. Blame retirement. Blame the pandemic. Blame it on inevitable declining health.

Naps: Remember in early grade school, when after lunch the teachers would bring out the blankets or floor mats and we would all lie down for an afternoon nap. Those midday naps are back. I am too creaky to lie on the floor, so my well-used recliner must suffice. But even when fully rested, my body demands that short down time. Please do not phone me between 2 and 3 p.m.

Food: As a child, you can mostly get away with picky eating. Yes, it frustrated my mother. But she was a terrible cook, so really had not a leg to stand on when it came to imposing dietary standards. Peas – take ‘em away. Beets – a non-starter. Olives – pick them off the pizza. Sauerkraut – “oops, didn’t mean to spill that plate on the floor.” Now, as I enter the winter of my life, there is no reason to fill my plate with food I don’t like. Give me meat. Potatoes. Fried anything. Bread. Just about anything with sugar. It frustrates my dear Carla, a fabulous cook. But damn it, take those peas away.

TV and movies: I went through the obligatory adult fine-drama phase. I went to the Ingmar Bergman festivals. “My, wasn’t that a powerful commentary on the human condition.” Chekov on the stage. Opera. Ballet. But maybe like you I am too old to spend time with depressing commentaries on life. Now I find myself riveted by the same entertainments I enjoyed as a kid. Saturday morning cartoons – especially Bugs Bunny. The Three Stooges. Hopalong Cassidy and Tim Holt. Zorro and Davy Crockett. The Disney streaming services is one of my favorites. Have you seen “Sleeping Beauty” lately? Svengoolie!

Clothes: Since retirement, I have worn a sport coat and tie exactly once. There was a time I owned enough neckwear to sport a different tie every day over the course of an entire year. Now, just as when I was a kid, I wear the same pair of jeans most days, unless I choose my favorite pair of black sweatpants. T-shirts in the summer, sweatshirts in the winter. Sandals, sometimes with white socks unless I choose the flip-flops. Those jeans are wearing out at the knees. Maybe it’s time to buy some of those iron-on patches our mothers used to repair our kid pants.

Pills: As a kid, I had such a strong gag reflex, I could not take a pill, even an aspirin, unless Mom broke it up and put it in a spoon with a bit of syrup. Pills are a problem again. I don’t need the syrup. But I take so many every day that several glasses of water are needed, and some must be broken in half. I hate taking pills.

Getting sick: I was a hard case as a kid. Maybe you were, too. A real whiner when it came to a cold or the flu, or worse, something like the chicken pox. If I was going to suffer, the entire family had to suffer with me. Stoicism during such minor, inconveniences is an adult quality. That stoicism flew out the window after retirement and during the first months of the pandemic. A nose sniffle – terminal. A headache – turn out the lights. “Honey, if you really loved me, you would heat up some Thera Flu. I am just too sick to operate the microwave.” And you mothers thought childbirth was difficult.

Keeping house: I still remember those times I all but destroyed the family home through kid carelessness. I once brought a box of snakes into the house to show Mom. Too bad the bottom fell out of that box dropping a dozen or so garter snakes on to the living room carpet. A bad day for both Mom and me. Carla is deathly afraid of snakes, so I know better than to let that happen again. But she does worry about me dropping food and other “things” on the living room carpet. I live with a drop cloth under my recliner, taken away when we have company so guests will not see my shame.

Girls: I was 7 years old when I first fell in love. Her name was Shirley. We met at the beach where our families were vacationing. The first time I saw her, my heart skipped a beat. We spent a wonderful two days ignoring each other, a sure sign of kid infatuation. I would like to think my adult relationships were more substantive. But my heart still skips a beat each time I see the right girl, as in just about anytime my dear Carla enters the room.

That second childhood is not all that bad, not at all.

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