Ever looked in the mirror and wondered why this older person staring back doesn’t quite sync with an X year old child who feels he/she hasn’t aged a day since?
For me, my inner 6 year old hasn’t quite caught up with its physical counterpart. This isn’t to say I have the maturity of a kid or am ill-equipped of life skills beyond that of a preschooler. What I’m referring to is a more authentic version of myself, someone who—when not defined by motherhood, marriage, employment or current trajectory of life experiences—has a distinct voice. The voice of 6 year old me. In fact, my childhood memories are built primarily on that year I turned 6, and ever so often in times of solitude or quiet prayer, I hear distinctly, the voice of my 6 year old self. I often picture this version of me as my very soul, the one I’ll carry with me into the afterlife.
A dear friend who is a trained counselor and was my one-time spiritual director once posited that sometimes people remain, emotionally, in certain places in their lives where they’d felt the safest. It’s an interesting theory, and it probably rings true on some levels, though I disagree that I have made any choice (subconscious or mindful) to ‘stunt’ my inward growth.
I know that at 6, I moved from my beloved childhood home to my parents’ present house, an experience I shared in this post.
At 6, I was mauled by my piano teacher’s dog. His name was Bruno and up until that fateful day, he’d been a friendly, harmless pet whom my siblings and I patted on our way in and out of lessons. It must’ve been a Saturday, for my siblings weren’t in school and my mother had put on a crisp new white shirt. That morning, I saw her smile at me through the reflection of her vanity mirror while I jumped on her bed, the way kids do. That same shirt would be soaked with blood (mine) in a matter of hours. Me in her arms, my brother and sister numb with shock, all of us piled into someone’s car as they raced me to hospital, my mother fighting to stay calm and not knowing how to respond to my repeated entreaties to take a bath (I only remember the stickiness of the blood, not so much the pain). After the operation, I was told it took over a hundred stitches to fix the wounds on my neck, left hand and thigh, and my half-chewed off left ear. My father was one of my surgeons in the ER, so technically, he did save my life—I actually outlived Bruno, whose fangs narrowly missed my throat. He, on the other hand, had to be put down, and to this day, I feel slightly bad about it. If my piano teacher was sad, she certainly never showed it, instead saving all her sympathies and concern for me. She was my piano teacher for a few more years after that.
At 6, I graduated from kindergarten. It seems my teachers were impressed with my precocious flair in music and assigned me to play the organ for our year-end concert. On behalf of the school, I made a lengthy speech by heart in both English and Mandarin, and got to wear foundation and lipstick for the first time.
At 6, on New Year’s Eve, I put a clothes iron to my right cheek because my brother and sister (who still deny this story) had previously placed a cooled one to theirs and said it felt good. To my chagrin, my iron that afternoon was warm and I was burned. And so I spent New Year’s eve in hospital and sported a large scab on my face for the better half of the next year and a reddish mark that faded gradually over time.
It certainly was a dramatic year. But you know, the odd thing is, I remember this age fondly. It never resulted in a phobia of dogs—after that experience, my family even went on to have a few dogs of our own. I also have no hard feelings against my siblings about the iron incident, and it’s a funny story I bring up during family gatherings. Even if it wasn’t my ‘safest’ year, I never felt more secure. All of 6 years old and happy to be alive. And apparently, not even a dog or a warm iron would change that.
So what’s your age? Your REAL age?