Joy in My Inner Child

This past weekend in Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, she encouraged us to find the joy of our inner child. That suggestion sent me to a scrapbook I put together just shy of my 50th birthday. I had read that we are our most authentic selves at age 10. So, at age 50, I reflected back on who I had been forty years earlier. I find it interesting, now, more than sixty years later, to rediscover 10-year-old Doris Rita.

Doris Rita at 10

At home. I lived in a 1st-floor, 5-room apartment in a 4-story building with my mother, father, brother, and two sisters. I shared a bedroom with my two sisters. For a while, we had a double bed, a single bed, a player piano, two bureaus, and a desk in the room! The room’s one window looked out onto the backyard with its twelve garages for the building’s residents. My maternal grandfather and my paternal grandmother died that year. My maternal grandmother continued to live in the 1st-floor apartment next door, and my paternal grandfather came to live in the apartment above us.

At school. I attended a Catholic parochial school in my city. I loved 4th grade! My favorite teacher, a woman religious, let me (and a few other neighborhood children) spend a great deal of time in her classroom before and after school and during summer vacation. I found that I wanted to be a teacher as a religious sister just like her. She was the first to help me to accept less-than-perfect performance from myself. She told me I should not be crying over grades – especially right in the classroom. I continued taking piano lessons, but gave up tap-dance lessons. Mom explained that I could play the piano well into my adult years, but that I probably would not be tap dancing!

At play. We played on the back porch and the adjoining backyards in my neighborhood – jump rope, jacks, running games, hide-and-seek. I also enjoyed playing roles by myself or with my dolls: mother, teacher, librarian, office manager, cowgirl. I enjoyed drawing and coloring. I loved going to the library, but was not very fond of reading. I preferred more active pastimes. We swam at the neighborhood indoor pool three days a week, and enjoyed snacks in a small park two blocks away, which had the only grass and trees in the neighborhood.


I returned to my scrapbook a year later to update my description of 10-year-old Doris Rita. I found an image in a magazine that represented what I remembered about my spirit as a child. My scrapbook has these notations about me: outgoing, active . . . did well at whatever I tried . . . felt no boundaries . . . trying too hard to be perfect . . . loved performing on the stage . . . loved being recognized and admired. I’m not sure if I was “reading back” into the 10-year-old what I was feeling at age 51!

Today, as I try to recover the joy of being 10, I don’t think it will be jump rope, running games, or hide-and-seek. However, coloring, swimming, and picnics in the park are definite possibilities. And maybe, being a cowgirl, too!

Q. What about you? What pastimes would bring you joy in these changing times?

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