The Child in Us
“WE WEREN'T BORN yesterday. We are from Missouri. But we are also from somewhere else. We are from Oz, from Looking-Glass Land, from Narnia, and from Middle Earth. If with part of ourselves we are men and women of the world and share the sad un-beliefs of the world, with a deeper part, still, the part where our best dreams come from, it is as if we were indeed born yesterday, or almost yesterday, because we are also all of us children still. No matter how forgotten and neglected, there is a child in all of us who is not just willing to believe in the possibility that maybe fairy tales are true after all but who is to some degree in touch with that truth. You pull the shade on the snow falling, white on white, and the child comes to life for a moment. There is a fragrance in the air, a certain passage of a song, an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book, the sound of somebody's voice in the hall that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears. Who can say when or how it will be that something Easters up out of the dimness to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die? The child in us lives in a world where nothing is too familiar or unpromising to open up into the world where a path unwinds before our feet into a deep wood, and when that happens, neither the world we live in nor the world that lives in us can ever entirely be home again any more than it was home for Dorothy in the end either because in the Oz books that follow The Wizard, she keeps coming back again and again to Oz because Oz, not Kansas, is where her heart is, and the wizard turns out to be not a humbug but the greatest of all wizards after all.” Frederick Buechner
Originally published in Telling the Truth
I was born on Easter Sunday. My name is Joanna. My parents had intended to name me Jo Anna after my mother’s parents, Joe and Anna. Before my mother woke up from her anesthesia at my birth my father put Jo and Anna together and added in a middle name, Marie. This is a statement about my parent’s relationship, which most probably began before my birth. Marie was my father’s favorite sister who was married the day before I was born. My father missed most of the wedding celebration because of my impending arrival, so I guess I was his wedding present to his sister!
The first Easter I remember is in a picture that I keep as a sacred place on my desk. It is the Easter before my brother was born, so I must have been barely two years old. I am standing in front of our first house by the Mattaponi River at the corner of Second and Lee Streets. The screened in front porch is in the background with maybe an Easter basket on it. There is a scruffy shrub to my right side. My head barely reaches the floor of the screened in porch. The small photograph is in black and white, and the silver from the photograph over the years has transformed the clear plastic cover to a grayish yellow color, leaving parts of the picture mystically missing and other parts without as much light, giving the photograph an overall Easter film noir look. I think the woven brim hat I am wearing is white with a black ribbon around it. My memory is that the coat I am wearing is a light pink wool with fake pockets, and big buttons. The coat falls not quite evenly just above my knees. I am sure that one of my sweet grandmothers made my Easter coat. My left shoulder looks slightly higher than the right. The tips of my hands are barely seen, sheltered under the coat as my arms stand straight almost at attention by my side. I am wearing a little homemade corsage on my left lapel. I cannot make out the flower, but I think it may be a small rose. Circling my neck and overlapping the coat is a ruffled white collar with a small black bow that must be the top of my homemade dress that is otherwise in secret beneath my coat. I cannot see my feet, but my legs are looking good. My eyes are wide open and my straight blonde hair has been curled, most probably with toilet paper the night before. I have a look of serene panic on my face as if I do not know what will happen next, but I will be ready.
This picture has become my inner child. I long to meet her once again some day. For right now I keep her by my side always on my desktop right next to my Apple, trying to let her know all is well, no harm will come to her. It is Easter, a celebration of new life overcoming death. She will never ever be abandoned again. We will go shopping for her new Easter outfit. I will tell her the Easter story and remind her how much she is loved. I will bring her flowers, violets or tulips or daffodils, go to an Easter egg hunt with her, give her a noisy gong to ring at the Easter Vigil, gather more flowers for her, maybe azaleas from our backyard, to flower the cross on Easter Day, ask her if she would like to sing with the other children at the Easter Day service, secretly leave for her a little extra chocolate at the Easter Brunch, rest with her in the afternoon, play with her the next day on Easter Monday, maybe even go to a movie. She is my inner child, born on Easter Sunday. I will remind her that Easter Day next year will again be a celebration of her birthday. Her real name is Jo Anna, and she is very loved especially by those whose name she wears.