If I could go back in time it would be on my 12th birthday. At the time, I didn't realize the importance of this birthday.
I don't remember anything special about the day. My family struggled to survive. My dad was blind and my mother
in more health. Our government money couldn't be wasted on birthday celebrations. We usually celebrated the passing
of another year with the comment, "Happy Birthday."
My previous birthdays all runned together until I turned 12. Anxious to be a teenager I realized that on my next birthday
my dream would come true. Only one year to wait. I pictured the age of 13 as a magical number, the year I would no longer be a kid.
After that birthday I wanted to be 16, then 18, and finally 21. After my 21st birthday I understood that in my quest to be an
adult I had forgotten how to enjoy who I was at the time.
Later, I knew the importance of my 12th birthday, that is the year I started losing my childhood. Living in poverty didn't stop
my imagination. Playtime involved the simple things, buttons, string, feathers, a box, and corncobs. I would thread a button on
a string, knot the string, and twirl and pull the string. The button spun so fast the color blurred. A goose feather
stuck in the end of a corncob became a whirly-wig. When the size of the cob and the feather were right, I would throw
it upward and watch it spin to the ground. If I had a large box, I tucked myself inside and rolled down a hill. My playhouse
included a rusted coffee pot, filled with the grounds of a weed spiked with brown seeds. Each day I explored my
grandparent's farm and imagined "what if." My creativity kept my childhood a wonderful place to be, a time to enjoy
My teen years were spent in anticipation of jumping ahead, looking forward to the next big event. I spent a lot of my
time thinking about boys and how I looked. My girlfriends consoled me when things didn't go my way, that is if we
weren't fighting. We thrived on our friendship and the drama of trying to be adults. When I graduated from high school
I still had one important number to reach, 21. All during my teen years I didn't think about my childhood or what I
had lost when I lived for the future. When I turned 21, I started looking back.
Today, I'm trying to recapture some of the qualities of my childhood. I'm not playing the number game going backwards
with regret, trying to regain my youth. But I am looking at the characteristics that were special about my childhood and how
to use them for today. One of my favorite quotes by Picasso hangs in my kitchen, "Every child is an artist. The problem
is how to remain one, once you grow up."
So my advice to myself on my 12th birthday is: Enjoy the now. And when I venture into the past or anticipate the future
to return to the present. My memory gives me wonderful pictures and the future is a question mark, but today gives me
time, 24 hours of life to enjoy.