Men have often been accused of not being mature enough for their age, or not being “grown up”, and we car guys have heard that on many occasions. Having been both boy and man for over 50 years now, I have gotten a slightly different perspective on this issue. Now I tend to believe that God had full intention that this condition was meant to last a lifetime.
From the time of my youth, one has always heard the little sayings such as “boys will be boys”, or “Little girls are made from sugar and spice and everything nice”, while boys were tagged with “Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails”. It seems to me like we got the questionable ingredients right from the beginning.
Not to worry though, as we have found many good ways to put them to use. Young boys seem to be instilled from the onset with a lack of fear, the fun of the dare appears to carry far more interest than the thought of pain or failure. In the beginning it may be simple running and jumping, but it soon moves on bicycles and skateboards and all the gravity defying things you can make them do. Once we reach the teen years this quality becomes even more pronounced as we tend to find new ways to challenge ourselves. This can take the form of physical sports, and probably the more dangerous the better.
Nowhere is this more evident than placing us behind the wheel of a car or astride a motorcycle. The sensation of bridling the power and speed of these machines unfortunately has exacted a heavy price for many. Yet I would be willing to wager that precious few of them considered the potential danger, or even if they did, it was most likely thought to be a factor that could be handled. I suspect it has been this way for centuries, no matter if the challenge was machine or animal, the daring spirit has always been a driving force.
The military has long taken advantage of this quality, especially where pilots are concerned. The two world wars that were fought over Europe and the Pacific taught military leaders that young men wrapped up in an armed flying machine made for a lethal combination. Their lack of fear and feelings of invincibility proved to be a key to victory on more than one occasion.
For those fortunate enough to return from such horrors of war, the ability to fall back onto the simple pleasures of boyhood helps facilitate the return to the basic things that make us truly happy. We often hear and read about how psychologists have determined that childhood experiences leave lasting footprints on the rest of our lives. I would tend to agree with this theory since I can look back from my present state and see the things that still remain.
For instance, when I was young I loved chocolate chip cookies, and sticking my finger into the bowl of dough and eating it uncooked was a guilty pleasure. This weakness remains to this day without reserve. Then again, I’m sure I’m not alone on this point since cookie dough ice cream can be found in virtually every supermarket. Yet the container of ice cream lacks one vital element, and that is a Mom that lets you get away with sticking your finger in the bowl of dough to begin with.
My mother cooked many things when I was growing up, and while I may not have been fond of all of them (the vegetables of course) the things she made that you looked forward to were all the more desirable. I especially remember how she would bake chocolate layer cakes for my birthday instead of the conventional white icing, and that was a special treat.
Now in her elder years, I recently helped her type up some of her old recipes so they could be stored on her computer. I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked to find that the majority of those recipes were dessert dishes, so it seems that apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
As a child I also spent many hours playing with toy cars. I ran races of all kinds over virtually every kind of terrain. The world inside my bedroom was adaptable and the world outside in the yard could be plowed with dirt roads, so there was no shortage of venues.
Today I “play” with the cars I drive to some extent, but I also have glass cases in my den filled to the walls with diecast replica cars. My dream garage, with its many floors, holds every car I feel sure I will never be able to afford to actually own. While I don’t run them around the floor anymore, there are days that I stand with the glass doors open, rearranging and blowing away the bits of dust, while in my mind I imagine climbing into each one of them and hearing their respective engines roar to life, if only for a short time. This would be why we are enthralled by the models that have opening doors and hoods, so we can oogle the engine compartments and dream of sliding into the seats.
These are only just a few small examples of how our inner child remains despite our advancing years. I don’t think these are the most important reasons that The Lord saw fit to have these qualities linger on inside us. I believe these traits remain because one day we will become parents, and who is going to teach the child to play if we do not remember ourselves? I found through my own experiences that parenthood, while bringing with it an enormous responsibility, also releases a child-like freedom to act as you probably never would in other circumstances. If you want to see this phenomenon in full swing, watch a bunch of adults talk gibberish and make some of the most ridiculous faces you’ve ever seen when a new born baby is brought into the room.
I’m quite sure I exhibited my share of purposeful stupidity when my children were infants, but when they grew to be toddlers was when my silliness went into overdrive. I was ridden like a horse, I carried them about like baby monkeys, I flew them around the house both like Superman and in their walkers as though it was an aircraft. I read books to them in all manner of crazy voices and we watched countless hours of movies and television together.
Time and age bring with it all manner of different behavior that must be taught and made an example of, yet some level of play always remained. If nothing else, we still enjoy the experience of a movie together and that works for me.
This particular time of year brings about its own special version of childhood, and it is as timeless as the event we celebrate. While God gave to all of us the gift of His Son, and we make Christmas the remembering of His birth, the spirit in which we give to our children is just as heartfelt. I can think of no other time when parents will go such lengths to see the wide smile of their children on Christmas morning. This is the time when each of us has the window of privilege to be Santa Claus. Some feel that imagery of Santa takes away from the spiritual impact of this holiday. I would respectfully say otherwise, to don the image of a Sainted old man whose sole purpose of existence is to bring joy to children everywhere, to me is a fantastical example of universal love in its purest form.
As children and adults alike have often asked what it would be like if superheroes really existed, I submit the greatest of them all would be Santa Claus, with his magical sleigh pulled by his flying reindeer, Santa leaves no child wanting in a single night. He is a bringer of joy and the delivery man of happiness, not by the gifts themselves, but by the size of the heart that delivers them.
Our Father in Heaven gave us a piece of His own heart when He gave us Christ. My inner child bears this truth over and over again every time I hear Linus explain to Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas, and it puts lump in my throat to this very day. This simple cartoon carries its simple message of peace and goodwill, as Santa embodies the delivery system by which we bring these gift from our hearts. I would be absolutely lying if I didn’t admit that even at my age, I can sit down on Christmas Eve at my computer and watch the various little video clips of Santa as NORAD tracks his amazing flight around the globe. I know I’m old enough to know better but my inner child still weeps the tears of wonder as this ultimate superhero performs his one night of magic.
Just as the wise men traveled far to bring gifts to the Newborn King, This same spirit of giving we call Santa travels far to bring gifts of love to each and every child, no matter their age or place. The amazing part is that each and every one of us carries out a piece of this magic, each of us plays the part of a wise man giving gifts to the Son of God. The scripture reads “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son”. That very same pure love we show to each of those we hold dear. We may not be wise men traveling from afar, or wearing the robes of kings, or even red suit with furry white trim, but we honor Our Father in Heaven with each act of kindness to one another.
Maybe that’s why it feels so good when you get to play Santa, no matter what form it really takes. To be a child once again, to give and receive with genuine wonder and know that the gift you hold comes wrapped with anothers love, can there be much more purity than that?
May God Bless this time of year and continue to touch the hearts of all who participate in it, to keep alive childlike joy and love that this time can bring. God is the giver, Christ is the gift, and Santa is the best delivery man anyone could ask for.
I may not rise before the sun anymore and race into the living room to see what Santa left for me, but the little boy inside the man still giggles with joy when he open gifts, while the adult that wants to be Santa has its moment with each gift given.
I hope that Santa delivers joy to each of you this year, and delights the inner child you hold inside. I know the boy inside this man still does.
Merry Christmas to all, both young on the inside and out.
-T. August Green