Wednesday, January 11, 2017 7:38 PM
There’s a coziness to youth—a sense that nothing can invade your home, that you’re safe under your covers. In a warm, snug home, during a blizzard, an adult may be concerned that a window will blow in, that a tree will topple onto the roof, or that the electricity will fail. Young people don’t just leave those details to the adults—they aren’t even aware of such things. They simply enjoy the show going on outside the window, enhancing the warmth and comfort of a lamplit room.
I can remember several places that seemed snug and cozy, long ago—looking at the same places today, I might just see all the work that needs to be done, or how threadbare the upholstery is—I’ve been conditioned to want to buy things to improve my home, to look for repairs that need to be made. To be fair, I acquired this partly through hard experience—learning that some home features require maintenance; that an ounce of prevention prevents a butt-load of expense; and that simple basics, like heat, electricity, or running water, can really impact quality-of-life.
The older you get, the richer you have to be to continue the pleasures of youth—the walk through the woods, the swimming, the road trips—we do these things on the cheap, as teens and such. But grown-ups can’t just traipse through whatever property they wander across, they can’t just jump into any body of water, they can’t just up and wander off for a few days. Some can—those who own their own woods, their own pools and ponds, those who have no employer to answer to—their childhood need never end.
People assume there’s a disillusionment process that inevitably happens to people as they mature. Much is made of the fact that we ‘learn life’s hard lessons’. It is framed as if we come to this knowledge through maturity and experience. But I think we’re overlooking a key component of that.
It isn’t entirely that we suddenly see these changes—grown-ups aren’t given the license that young people are allowed—many of the changes are forced on us. I distinctly remember the first time someone hassled me for walking across their property—until that day, property lines hadn’t really existed for me. I spent a lifetime (well, a childhood) walking wherever I needed to go—nobody bothered me. But when a full-grown man walks through your yard, you tend to freak out—and that day I suddenly realized that my ‘youth’ card had expired.
Similar experiences dot the landscape on the road to maturity—walking onto school grounds and being swarmed by security, insisting I check in at the office; realizing, one day, that everyone in the bar thinks I’m a creepy old guy—adulthood is full of these little surprises, none of them pleasant.
So it’s not only that we begin to see the ugliness of the world on entering maturity—it’s partly that the world begins to see ugliness in us—the lack of innocence that comes with the loss of youth. We hear ‘Act your age’ plenty, as children—but it takes on a whole other level of seriousness when, say, the cops inform you that you’ll be tried as an adult. Some of our maturity comes from our experiential learning and growth—but some of it is just forced on us.
Still, I can remember that youthful coziness. I once visited Maine—a road-trip with three other people, in a big old, sky-blue Chevy Impala (that spun out on the interstate during a snowstorm—we were all fine—it spun a full 360, still on the road—we just drove on, severely shaken by it, but otherwise fine).
We stayed with a friend whose rooms were part of an old Victorian place—Joni Mitchell on the turntable, snow outside the window, everybody dreaming of romance and adventure in this New England idyll—with a fire in the fireplace. Drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. It was a timeless moment that has stayed with me—but nothing in later life would ever be, could ever be, as carefree and freshly-discovered as that jaunt to Maine.