Happy Childhood

“I never meet anyone who admits to having had a happy childhood,” said writer Jessamyn West. “Everyone appears to think happiness betokens a lack of sensitivity.” I agree, and go further. Many creative people I know actually brag about how messed up their early life was, as if that was a crucial ingredient in turning them into the geniuses they are today. Well, excuse me for breaking the taboo, but I, Rob Brezsny, had a happy childhood, and it did not prevent me from becoming a sensitive artist. In fact, it helped. Now I ask you, my fellow Cancerian, whether you’re brave enough to go against the grain and confess that your early years had some wonderful moments? You’re in a phase of your cycle when recalling the beauty and joy of the past could be profoundly invigorating.

This is seriously a little uncanny.  I don’t know if it’s because Rob Brezsny has the same sun sign as I do or what it is but his horoscopes really rock.   The stuff is always just a bit behind the work that it describes for me, I’m always just a little ahead of the planets but it’s spot on every time.

I realized not too long ago that while I had a pesky brother and a father who had anger management issues, a mother who wasn’t in touch with her feelings, I had a pretty normal childhood.  I was talking with my sponsor and she said that we should just face it, we were born with anger issues , born resentful alcoholics, etc…

And I said, hey, you know, I don’t think that’s true for me at all.  I remember being a very happy child.  Sure, I liked it when Dad was in a good mood and when he wasn’t if he had a meeting that night.  Sure my little brother took great pleasure in messing with me until I blew up.  But on the whole, my personality was pretty chipper, fairly happy.  I spent a lot of time with friends but even more time alone.  I was perfectly happy sitting in my room or outside, drawing in a sketch book, reading, sewing, playing with toys.  I had no problem being alone, I liked myself and I liked the things I did.  I didn’t feel ugly or stupid most of the time, I remember feeling pretty darned good.

I remember vying for Dad to carry me first on the stool to go get our teeth brushed.  I remember an awesome trip to Hawaii, to Alaska, playing in Volunteer Park in the trees (I had favorites then as I do now).  I remember going to the museum all by myself just to look at the art.  I remember hot summers at the beach, riding the bus, riding bikes, my first motorcycle ride, my portable record player, the dolls I dressed, the clothes I learned to make, the books I read, and the round houses I designed. The boys we tried to tempt, discovering my new more rounded body, my first period. Yes, I had life frustrations, things that upset me. I got into trouble like any kid. I got a few spankings. But I wasn’t born resentful.  I wasn’t born unhappy.  I distinctly remember being a pretty happy kid. I remember adults being kind to me, telling me nice things about myself. I remember being told that I don’t accept criticism gracefully every year on my report card and I still don’t do it all that gracefully. I’m working on that. Mostly I rebel when the criticism is based on some stupid rule about being normal or when it is only that other person’s opinion, not the truth about me.  You bet I rebel.  I had lovely friends, young and old who nurtured me and my interests.

I think this photo says a lot.

I did get braces…  and isn’t that mod dress just the coolest? Thanks Mom for always nurturing my love of clothes and textiles.  Not so much for the goofy home perms… *laugh*

I have some really happy memories from my childhood. Friends, things I did, places we went, stuff I made.  I have been making things, drawing, since I was at least this age.  I have my first embroidery from 2-3 years earlier than this photo.

It really helped me to realize and re-experience my childhood because for years I heard in AA how messed up folks were before they started drinking. For a long time in sobriety I thought that was true for me too.  And it isn’t true at all.  Hey, I started drinking when I was 13, but it was to do what my friends were doing. I already belonged to their group mostly, but the drinking brought the boys and hey I wanted boys too.  I liked the cool kids because they were cool.  I became cool too.  I found it very fun, partying with my friends, getting snockered.  That switch got flipped when I first got a buzz on.  But I didn’t start drinking because my life sucked and I wanted to blot it out or forget things, not at all.  That crap happened much later.

In the end it wasn’t about fun and friends and silliness.  It was about forgetting and killing the pain.  But the pain that I wanted to forget wasn’t something I was born with.  It wasn’t there before the drinking.  The drinking created it, pure and simple.  No doubt about it.  And it changed the way my brain works forever.

That little girl that I was?  The creative artist, actress, reader and writer I was?  Is still here.  Yes, there is some baggage for certain but little by little it’s being dealt with. The happy returns, the free spirit that I was is still there and little by little I uncover her.

Remembering her. That happy, little, sweet, girl with the clear, grey eyes and the crooked teeth, always smiled, always shone.  I’m so glad I found this photo and started thinking about what it really meant about me as a person.

That underneath the drama of life, I am, at my core, a very happy, shiney, free spirit.

4 thoughts on “Happy Childhood

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