Monday, December 30, 2013

Pretending to Grow Up

Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play -

The lad I used to be.

And yet he smiles so wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder if he hopes to see
The man I might have been.

- Sometimes by Thomas S. Jones, Jr.

Earlier this month, I posted this poem at my blog, Bildungsroman, after discovering it at Bartleby.com.  I think any adult, male or female, can relate to this - be it wistfully, happily, regretfully, or any combination of emotions that childhood memories and adult aspirations can create. When I was little, I read and enjoyed all of L.M. Montgomery's novels about the life of Anne Shirley, but I always preferred the earlier volumes - especially the first book, Anne of Green Gables - to the later volumes in the series. Earlier this year, I read Now I'll Tell You Everything, a novel in which the main character chronicles her life from her late teens all the way into her sixties. (See my post about the Alice McKinley novels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for more information on the entire series.)

But back to the poem Sometimes. With the piece being written by a man and specifically using male pronouns, it made me think of books with male protagonists  - modern classics like Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary and the Matthew Martin books by Paula Danziger. What happened to them after those books? What were they like at age 20, 30, 40? Did Encyclopedia Brown become a bona fide private detective? A cop? Is Maniac Magee a teacher? A father?

When I interviewed Judy Blume in 2008, I figured out how old Fudge, Peter, Sheila and Tootsie would be, based on the publication year of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and asked the author, "Do you ever consider what they would be doing in their adulthood, their middle age?" She responded, "Peter and Fudge can never grow up!"
 
But in my mind, other than Peter Pan - which is an entirely different post - it's interesting to consider how our favorite fictional characters might turn out when they grow up. The triumphs and the tragedies of childhood undoubtedly shape the lives of real people, and a lot of wonderfully written middle grade and young adult books capture these experiences. So...what happened next?

What do you think happened to your favorite characters? Who became the men and women they thought they'd be? And who always smiles when they think of the child they used to be?


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1 comment:

James V said...

I'd like to think that Encyclopedia Brown finally caught on to the fact that he was essentially doing his dad's job for no pay or benefits. He's currently working as an investigator for the Department of Labor-OIG, specializing in child abuse violations...