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There is a child within us all

Adam Cahill | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The train stops with a jarring halt and the telecom speaker informs the passengers of the Addison Street stop. People file off the cars with as much fluidity as water from a newly-opened drain. Down the stairs and through the turnstiles, the crowd carries me along with it and floods onto the swarming street. The chorus of greetings from street vendors and police officers reverberates along Addison Street. As I get the ticket out of my pocket to enter the ballpark my senses peak to the smell of fresh beer and hot dogs saturating the air, old men screaming their alliances and the sight of postseason flags snapping in the wind.

I walk up the ramp through the tunnel and greet the usher. He asks for my ticket and points me in the direction of my seat. But before I can get to the destination that he had set out for me, the spectacle in front of me catches my eye. Through the darkness of the grandstand I see lights beam across the gloriously green field, and I realize now that I’m not at Wrigley Field in October. I’m not witnessing the playoffs. I’m living in a fantasy, a child’s fantasy.

It’s not that it’s Wrigley Field or that I’m seeing baseball in October. It’s the fact that I’m stepping away from the person I am during the day so that I can let myself relive a time when things were as simple as a game. You remember those days, don’t you? You remember the days that ended only because the sun decided that it had shined enough for one day. They lasted a lifetime each and every day. And as I stand here watching the drama of the postseason begin to unfold under the bright lights, I feel as giddy as the boy who spent those long afternoons trying to hit a curveball.

There is a child we used to know but have long since forgotten. The child is different for each of us with different hopes and dreams. But we have put him aside like most other things and decided to grow up. These days, going to classes and meetings has overcome those that had no clock or consequences. The child has been left sitting in the corner, unnoticed and neglected, waiting for you to play again. But most of us do not understand the consequence of leaving him in the corner.

The trouble is not that we are neglecting the part of us that has not decided to grow up; instead the problem is that we are neglecting the passion for life possessed by the kids we used to be. It is the possibility that comes with being a child that we sorely lack. It is the same thing that drove me to spend an entire summer trying to hit a curveball; the same thing that made you spend those extra hours every night practicing so that you could beat your schoolmates in soccer so that you could impress the girl. It is the possibility of what can be that is so valuable to keeping that child alive within us.

We were children of the summer. The sun was as much our food as the Cheerios we ate in the morning and the games we played as important as the prayers we said before bedtime. This child is important to us, the basis of who we are today. But the more we grow, the more most of us try to hide this child, embarrassed at what he might tell the world with the pure honesty of his words. Screaming for life, he calls to us in the most desperate times, times where we need to step back and realize that there is something more to life than what the adult world teaches us to value.

And we still have that child in us. We may not acknowledge him or give him the time of day, but he never leaves, nagging us with the only important question of a child’s life: Can you come out and play? Every once in a while, we need to do just that: Play. It’s what keeps us going, what fuels the fire to head to class on Monday mornings or to the meetings we dread. And if we do not listen to the kid within us – if we choose to let him die – we will have nothing left to work for. We owe it to him for giving us the possibility to be who we are today. It was his dreams that lead us into this future.

Setting aside all the grades and the tests and the rest of my life, I let myself be a kid again that night at Wrigley. And even if it was only for one night, it felt great.

Adam Cahill is a senior history and American studies major. His column appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at acahill@nd.eduThe views expressed in this column are those of the author and not neccessarily those of The Observer.