Once I Was a Child (A Poem)

Once I was a Child

Have you ever read The Little Prince?
Or Catcher in the Rye? Or just Jesus’ admonition,
“Blessed are these little ones.”
There’s a purity in joy and hope that only children know.
Crave that peaceful chaos.

I grew older, though, and outgrew those things.
I’ve grown old enough already to yearn for those lost things.
I cast aside the unassailable might of childhood, but cling, day by day, to all its weaknesses.

I feel, still, like a little child,
Confused, scared, unprepared,
And dropped into a great big world.

Now I’m chasing, every day, after learning, after answers,
After all the things I’ll need when I’m grown up….
Then I recall, my heart all gripped in terror, that the time has come and passed.

Oh, I am grown.
I’ve stepped into my life, put on adulthood like a costume.
It’s a role I’m always playing, now.
I tremble, and worry someone will notice, will see through my disguise.

I’m just a child, guessing at my world.
I stumble and I fall, I burn my hand and scrape my knees, every single day.
I hide, from what I am, and from what I am not.

When does that end?
Will I outgrow this, too, or go on faking ’til that role is second-nature?
Will I die a fraud, or someday, old and grey, discover that it’s true,
Now, at last, with no one left to listen, that I can truly say,
I am all grown up.

What truly makes me shudder, when I stop and think,
Is all the precious things that I have broken, in the course of this deceit.
Clumsy child, foolish acts, and Mom’s fine vase in pieces on the floor.
I do that still, but this is my real life.
I am already there, surrounded by responsibilities my heart can’t comprehend.

Though I pretend,
I play the part,
And I’m afraid.