I missed them. The “Wonder Years.” The years of innocent, frivolous childhood. The carefree days. Believing in goodness and happy endings. The time before fear. The time before enlightenment. Before darkness.
There is pain even then. And though it seems big and awful, aging provides us with a perspective that allows us to see how trivial were our worries and betrayals. A best friend plays with an “enemy.” Someone we have a crush on develops a crush on someone else. The popular kids seem to have it all together and they always appear to win. But things are not as they appear. We are learning life lessons as we play out our dramas on a small screen in our small, but expanding world. The Wonder Years don’t require those massive, life-changing consequences. Everything is softer. We take small steps. Eat small bites. Figure things out slowly. But without the weight of concern. Without crushing responsibility. Our course is still pliable. Anything can happen. And whatever happens…we believe it will be good. We believe our course will eventually lead us to the pot of gold.
I missed it…that time of magic and excitement others experienced routinely. That time before intimately comprehending the dark side of life. I was born on the dark side. I lived there. Knew the streets. The shadows. I grew up under the curse.
It is not a place of security or wholesomeness. Or beauty.
I watched classmates with parents who adored and encouraged them. I saw the nurturing they received. The attention. The care. And it baffled me. I saw them make mistakes, yet survive. They were not beaten or reduced to nothingness for taking a wrong step. They were not made to pay with their soul. Maybe with their allowance. But the mistakes they made didn’t mean they WERE a mistake. They cried their tears, dried their eyes and laughed again as their parents lovingly watched over them.
I learned very early that those wonder years were just a facade. A fantasy. I peeled away the tissue, but there was no gift within the wrapping. I saw behind the curtain. And there were monsters there.
I was tightly swathed in darkness and rejection. I was surrounded by abuse of every kind that came from every direction and I had nowhere to run nor any way of escape. I walked through the day quiet as a mouse, hiding and running from those who gave me physical life. Avoiding contact, for they were the ones who sucked dry my emotional and mental life while draining the hope and innocence right out of me. I lived in fear of things that went bump in the night because in my house, those monsters were real, alive and hungry. They ate my heart and soul and enjoyed the meal. In my house, the worst did happen. And in my house, I bore all the blame. All the responsibility. The emptiness and dysfunction was somehow my fault because I could never fill them up.
I didn’t feel cherished or wanted. I never recall a time when I was without heavy weights on my shoulders. There are no memories of feeling light and unburdened. Free and unrestricted and alive. I died young, there alone in the terrible darkness. Old beyond my years. Broken before I even got a chance to take my first faltering steps. Never flying.
I missed the Wonder Years, though I longed for that feeling of lightness and joy. I wanted to taste it. I wanted to soar…just for a little while. To feel weightless and safe and ecstatic simply to be alive with the sunshine warming my head while the wind carried me.
But once you have lost your innocence, once you have had your trust ripped violently away, once you have been violated, there is no turning back the page. No going backward in time. Once you have had a bite from the apple, a new, horrible reality is revealed. Once you have been thrust into the unending darkness and seen the face of evil, the only wonder you know is that of wondering if you will survive.
And mostly, you don’t. Because life without wonder is just marking time.