Last night I watched an episode of Chibi Maruko-Chan (English dubbed, unforunately). In this episode, Maruko’s ojii-san wins a trip to a tropical island, but can’t go. Maruko, in her own initimitable way, manages to finagle her way into going. On the way, she has some really fun adventures and makes a new friend.
In this episode, she is a very brave little girl. She flies on an airplane by herself, she gets on a boat by herself, she even goes on a canoe trip to an island along with her new friend and a couple of older boys. Of course, she is part of a tour, so people are kind of looking out for her, but this is her adventure.
As I was watching the episode, I kept expecting something bad to happen. She was sat next to a gansgster-looking man who kept trolling her about how the airplane could crash, but he apologized and became, if not a friend, at least someone she kind of trusted. She was on the boat with her little purse next to the railing, and I kept expecting the purse to fall overboard. Every time she went on a new part of her adventure, I wondered what was going to go wrong. I imagined her losing her money, losing her passport, being stuck on the island with no way home, etc., etc. But none of that happened!
As she arrived back home, full of new memories of wonderful adventures and missing her new friend, I wondered what happened to me over the years? What happened to me, that even in a fun story about a little girl on an adventure, I kept wondering what bad thing was going to happen? Why did it never even occur to me that maybe… maybe everything would turn out okay? After the episode ended, I gurned off my phone and had a good, hard look at myself. What happened to me?
I know it’s a story. I know it’s a children’s story. I know, boy do I know, that things aren’t all sunshine and roses. But why aren’t they? Did you ever notice that whenever a child draws something, it’s usually anthropomorphized, and it has a smile? The bees have smiles, the birds have smiles, everything has a benevolent smile. Their world is beautiful. Full of bright colors, and fun, and adventure. And then the children grow up, and turn into… something else. Into me. Jaded, hurt, damaged, always wondering what’s going to go wrong next. And when something doesn’t go wrong, we are surprised, think “that’s good news”, and then wait for the next thing to go wrong. Because in our minds, something always goes wrong.
In the story, Maruko made a new friend. And when she left the island, she knew that she would never see her friend again. She missed her terribly. That is a lot for a nine year old to process, and I really like that the story dealt with it so honestly. But, even then, when she got home, she was happy to see her parents. Her friend wasn’t forgotten, but it didn’t consume her and it didn’t destroy her.
Jesus said, “Be as little children”. Is this, perhaps, what he meant? The way we were, once, before the world happened, and turned us into… adults?