Sarah’s Slice of Life: Amid a Celebration
I have never felt freer than when my neighbor tackled me into the grass. The impact of the ground smashed the breath from my lungs, and I caught the scent of coming frost nestled in the hard clumps of dirt. A moment later, my neighbor laughed, holding up a yellow volleyball and declaring himself the winner.
This was the goal of a game called Jackpot. Someone would throw the ball high into the air or nail it at our knees, and the first person to take possession of it would win. Due to our competitive natures, this game was painful, causing many splattered bruises and angry cuts.
We played this game often as children, but this instance was special because we played at night by the light of a cold half-moon. Each breath was a prick of razor-sharp winter air, and the scratchy grass blades would cut across my hands when I braced myself for a fall.
However, I don’t remember the pain nor, more importantly, who won the game. Most of all, I remember how we laughed and danced under the moon between rounds. In a way only children can, we would throw our hands into the air and twirl in circles.
In that moment, I was a child doing childish things. Still, there was something eternal about it — all the light, all the silence, all the laughter — like we were amid a celebration, and we were the only ones who knew how to dance.
As I grew older, though, these moments of free abandonment grew rarer and rarer. In fact, they became almost nonexistent.
However, I did experience one other moment like playing Jackpot under the moon, but it came after I had left childhood behind me. One summer evening during high school, something possessed me to watch the movie “Ella Enchanted” when it appeared on my TV guide.
If you don’t know, “Ella Enchanted” is a jukebox fantasy where the protagonist Ella is under a spell to always be obedient, a fact she must hide from her new stepfamily to protect the prince of the land. All kinds of shenanigans ensue because of an evil king and his talking, horribly CGI-rendered snake, but in typical fairy tale fashion, everything works out in the end with Ella marrying the prince.
I fully admit I enjoyed every moment of that movie, so much so that by the end, I stood up from the couch and started dancing at the wedding right there in my living room.
Was I too old to watch a movie centered around fairytales, sentient ogres and spontaneous flash mobs? Sure. Did I watch it anyway, throwing away my own self-consciousness to dance in the living room? Absolutely.
In both moments, I did the same thing — danced freely — but why then did I feel insecure about doing so in high school after watching a movie that genuinely made me feel like a kid again?
It’s because of a sad but true fact: growing up brings self-consciousness, which means we don’t want to play heartily and regularly like we did as children. We might embarrass ourselves by acting too childish.
There is a time and place for everything, and I shouldn’t be dancing like a child during a board meeting. However, acting more childlike in our ordinary lives helps us wholly engage in the now, engage in the experience of play and engage with the world around us. Yes, it’s pointless, but in a good way.
Even Albert Einstein, one of the most intelligent and serious scientists of all time, understood the importance of childlike wonder.
“He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead — his eyes are closed,” he writes in “Living Philosophies.”
As we grow older, we tend to lose this sense of wonder, freedom and innocence, but it doesn’t have to be so. Each day presents us with opportunities to be a kid again. If we take them, we will find the same joy we did when we were children.
In fact, each day we live can be a celebration. We just have to know how to dance.
Tate is the Editor-in-Chief for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter