God's Sky - Photo by Meredith Eastwood

The Magic of Childhood is Feeling Close to the Stars

“We lay there and looked up at the night sky, and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls, and I told her I had never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it all on your own.” ~ Brian Andreas

“Ah, not to be cut off, not through the slightest partition shut out from the law of stars. The inner…what is it? If not intensified sky, hurled through with birds and deep with the winds of homecoming.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

On clear fall evenings in Oklahoma, my friends and I used to wrap ourselves in blankets and then gather together on a grassy hillside in a nearby pasture. Reclining in silence, we gazed upward with awe and wonder at the vast field of stars awash with quivering brilliance. The blinking lights, like grains of sand, were too many to count. We tried to imagine where the sky ended, pondering long after the experience the meaning of eternity.  The days at school that followed our outings were filled with cheer-leading routines, play practice, football games, homework assignments, and slumber parties. On Saturdays we stole kisses from one another in a darkened theater, and on Sundays we raced bareback on spotted ponies through open fields.

Our experiences with the stars stayed lodged in the backs of our minds, and we grew up retaining the magic of that big sky, believing anything was possible in our universe. It was a time when kids were free to create their own schedules, when it felt safe to build forts in the woods and to imagine worlds in wild places. We lived in a kind of “endless timelessness.”  No one worried about where we were or what we might be doing. Even the quarrels with our parents never mattered as much as our friendships and the times we shared together.

Teachers were our friends and mentors. They taught us about the Trail of Tears and the “sooners” that entered the unassigned lands in the Indian territories illegally before President Grover Cleveland officially proclaimed them open for settlement on March 2, 1889. We were taught how to conjugate verbs in French, how to sew a gathered skirt, how to honor the natives of the land, but more importantly how to dream and be our own stars. We learned the true value of education, became avid fans of Oklahoma University’s football team, the Sooners, and were proud to live in our “Sooner” state.   I once told a friend that I became a teacher because of the years I experienced growing up in Oklahoma.

Perhaps as we begin the departure from the lovely autumn of our lives, we return to the pull of the stars, seeing them again through the child’s eye.  And in that remembering, we truly understand the magic of a childhood.  Rilke wrote the following: “…oh longing for places that were not cherished enough in that fleeting hour. How I long to make good from far the forgotten gesture…” What better gesture can a grandmother offer, than a remembered legacy of awe, and wonder. For it is through these things the gods touch our souls.


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