Eight Years Old

Alter Ego: The part of someone’s personality not usually seen by others. — Cambridge Dictionary

This week I went away for five days to work on a writing project that I hope will emerge as book this year. In preparation I got some help to create a plan for how to spend my days as productively as possible. Part of that plan included writing about my childhood in light of five themes that will house the overarching theme.

Day after day I sat for a bit and wondered about the stories of me as a little girl. As the memories were given space on the page, I realized something—today my alter ego is an eight-year-old girl.

She lives in an upstairs corner room of a very old house. Inside her closet is the gateway to adventure, with an octagonal window that opens up to a huge maple tree leading to fantastic imaginary places. 

She and her best friend have a secret club, no boys allowed. If any boys want in, they have to eat the mystery mush, and so far none have been able to finish the required bowl. They feel pretty smart about how they have kept the club secure.

Down at the bottom of her backyard, beyond the maple tree, is a gazebo that is actually a pirate ship. It sails to mysterious islands where secret castles wait for them if they are brave enough to fight off the dragons guarding the access points.

She loves to travel to magical places and explore.

Sometimes she climbs aboard a pirate ship headed for islands in the Caribbean, other times a hot air balloon whisks her away to London where there are mysteries to be solved and tea parties to attend. She doesn’t care what time it is because she doesn’t feel responsible. She enjoys her secret club friends and isn’t feeling any pressure to add to the group.

She wears twirly dresses and fancy shoes, but she also loves sweatshirts, Levi’s, and sneakers. She hides her black-and-white corrective shoes in the back of the closet because they are dumb and she hates them.

She reads Nancy Drew and is a pretty good detective herself; she can regularly solve the mystery before the end of the book.

She loves to ride her bike, far, farther than the responsible adults think is safe. She loves her life, her friends, and her adventures.

I learned to keep her secret, protected, and far away from the grown-up world, where parents got promotions, and families moved, and grandparents died, and bad things happened. Her open heart and hopeful innocence began to feel like a liability in a world where sometimes dark magic felt most true. It seemed wise to lock the closet door and toughen up. For awhile she felt unhelpful, best kept locked away, and over time she became lost to me. But I’ve come to realize she is the necessary other side of me, my trusted counterpart.

In my regular life, on regular days, it can feel risky for her to show up. She’s a little too mischievous, and that sometimes causes trouble. She can feel a bit selfish, as her young, free self is unburdened by the expectations of others. She doesn’t appreciate how dangerous the world is and still believes almost anything is possible. There is something wildly hopeful in her innocence and belief.

I know when she’s here because dreams are on the table and ridiculous adventures are being talked about as if they could actually happen. I can feel her just inside my strong, confident, contained energy. She’s the one who wants to play.

DSC_0512Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer, and the founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 35 years, she is mother to five kids, two son in laws and is a pastor’s wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations, and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.