Second childhood is not as bad as I thought it would be.  So far, it’s an improvement on the first one. Being my own mother and father now, I am doing my best to give my inner child what she needed and wanted when she was powerless to create that for herself. I started years ago by allowing her to have her emotions without trying to shut her down or judge them or change them. I learned to give her the compassion and tenderness and validation she desperately needed.  Now, in my older years, I seem to be creating the life that she wanted most.

Her happiest times were the two weeks at Christmas when she would be taken to the warm sunshine of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where her grandparents lived. Oh, how jouyous she was then—going to the beach every day, seeing her beloved grandparents, cousins, aunts and an uncle. On the train trip south the sight of the first palm tree sent her into ecstasies.  After these vacations, she and her sister would beg their widowed mother to move to Florida, but she would never even consider it.

So now I have moved to Florida. That makes my inner child very happy. I have found that she is quite undemanding and doesn’t give a hoot about expensive things or clothes—fortunately. Tee shirts and flip flops suit her just fine. She hated shopping when she was young and still does, though she thinks it’s fun to rummage around thrift stores.  We both enjoy doing that—almost always finding treasures.

Yesterday, I was swimming in the warm pool of my small complex. I had it all to myself.  What a luxurious difference from the Ellenberger Park Community Pool where I went as a kid. So many screaming, wild children thrashing around that it was dangerous to get in. I often got splashed or kicked or shoved. Once I got knocked out by a boy who jumped on top of me from the edge of the pool. Not fun.

However, one day every summer my sister and I would be invited to my Aunt Vera’s country club. While she and my mother played bridge, Eloise and I would go to the pool. No one was there but us.  I would get into the cold water and love breaking the still surface by moving my hands around my body slowly making gentle ripples. What a treat to be in a pool alone! I cherished those once a year visits.

Now I have access to a pool that is not only empty most of the time but warm. I paddle back and forth looking up at the blue sky, floating clouds, and surrounding palm trees. Swaying in the breeze, they provoke a Pavlovian response of joy.  “Palm trees!  Palm trees!” my young self yells happily. I swim and thank whatever guides got me here.

I thank myself, too, because it wasn’t easy in the beginning. It was tough. Moving to a completely new place where I knew no one, and starting over was scary and hard. But now, as I ruffle the water with my easy breast stroke, I think of my just-renovated courtyard in the little villa across the road with its new brick paving, comfy outdoor furniture, a beautiful, lush pygmy palm, and my adorable transported cement Laughing Buddha. I continue to swim and ponder where I’m going to put lights to brighten it all up at night.  The whole project took a lot of planning, but what a magical space I made for my inner child and me. It is my 80th birthday present to myself—and her.

Did I say 80? Yes. It seems impossible to believe, but it’s true—and I am amazed at not only being here but that I am giving myself the things that made me happiest as a child: warmth, water, sunshine, palm trees, and a home where new friends and old are welcome. It is not sumptuous, but it is all making second childhood a lot better than anything I could have imagined.

I hope you, too, will live a long and healthy life. As you plan for it, start with finding out what your inner child wants and needs most.

Come to think of it, I’m not just being a mother to myself. At this age, I guess I’m my own grandma, too—like that old song, I’m My Own Grandpa.

I know. I know. You never heard of it. Look it up on Wikipedia.