Sometimes I miss for myself the unfiltered joy that I see in the eyes of a child.
While riding the metro to work today a group of children and their teachers walked onto my train car. They were a generally properly behaved and relatively quiet group, which was a relief to my still in early-morning-defrost mindset.
A boy with a dark blue puffy coat sat in the row facing mine. He looked out the window just as we crossed a bridge that made the train seem like it was moving magically suspended in air (except that you could feel the track rumble under your feet).
His brown eye widened, his mouth spread into a grin and his body shifted forward and to the left to get a better view through the fingerprint- and hair grease -pocked glass.
I watched his private joy and realized I was smiling. I checked myself and looked back at my paper. Then I stopped and wondered… when did I loose that part of my innocence? The part that doesn’t care whether people will reject your happiness. The part that doesn’t even let such a fear cross one’s mind.
Where did my childhood eyes go?
True, the eyes appear now and then.
When I was in Belgium I went through a 12th Century Hospital museum that featured vividly colored and wonderfully preserved religious triptic paintings. I moved slowly from each triptic to the next feeling in awe and joy welling up inside me at the privilege of seeing such Flemish masterpieces.
I turned a corner and there was a painting of a skull against a deep (multi-shaded) red background. There is no way to do the painting justice for how it made me feel was nothing short of overwhelmed.
I sighed an “oh” and sat on the bench behind me.
I took out my journal and started describing my feelings in black ink. I was alone in that room with the painting.
Just then a hand touched my shoulder and I turned to see a guard.
“Excuse me but you can’t sit here,” he said.
“Oh I’m sorry” I responded, stood up and turned to see what I had been siting on.
Behind me was the tan and slightly worn headstone of a saint, which had been removed from a hidden crypt and laid flat elevated above the floor so people could read the inscriptions.
“Oh I’m sooooooo sorry,” I repeated several times feeling my face turn hot. He nodded and walked to the corner where he could keep an eye on this silly foreigner.
I continued on, yet the feelings I experienced through the rest of the museum were somehow held in check because I knew I was being observed and because I had to be a responsible adult with no one to keep track of me like they would have were I still a 7-year-old.
Perhaps that’s what makes us loose our childhood eyes. There is no one there to keep up safe from making such mistakes or for us to turn to for help when we do. No one on earth, I mean.
p.s. Don’t get enough of Esther now-and-then-some? You can follow Esthernow on twitter.