“Walking in the Air” by Peter Auty

I discovered today’s song only a few years ago, hearing a school chorus rendition of it on the radio. It is from the 1982 short film The Snowman, which tells the tale of a young boy whose eponymous creation comes alive for a day. The Snowman learns about the boy’s world, the boy learns about The Snowman’s world. At the end, the snow melts, as does the viewer’s heart. This animated film, based on the book of the same name, is entirely wordless, except for an interlude where the boy and The Snowman fly from the child’s village to the North Pole, a sequence set to the beautiful and haunting “Walking in the Air.”

With age and time, we lose many things, and part of successful maturity is learning to accept those losses with grace. I frequently dwell on aspects of my appearance that certainly are not improving as the years pass, because I must immediately confront them every time I look in the mirror–the extra pounds, the gray hairs, the deepening lines in my forehead and around my eyes. Even when I am not thinking about how I look, my body reminds me that I am not quite as young as I default to thinking myself to be. My perfect eyesight has been troubling me the last few weeks. Muscles ache for two days after a weekend of housework and holiday decorating. A skinned and bruised knee still hurts after a silly fall almost a month ago.

“Be young at heart.” “You’re only as old as you feel.” “Age is just a number.” These phrases are easy to speak, and, like most oft-repeated sayings, hold grains of truth. No matter how much we do to preserve our physical youth, it will disappear, and this lies beyond our control. But internally, can we cling to the child within? Can we keep a spirit of imagination and curiosity alive inside? Why is it so difficult to do?

Like most children, I had an overactive imagination. I didn’t watch favorite televisions shows—I was part of those shows as they aired. In my mind, I was Fonzie’s sister, Barbarino’s girlfriend, the third host of The Magic Garden. When my friends and I played, we made up crazy, elaborate stories, both for ourselves and our dolls, for which the plots seemed entirely plausible. No effort was required on my part to believe in Santa’ s North Pole as a real place—in fact, I think it was harder for me to accept the opposite. Even in my teen years, though my preoccupations began to shift to more practical and tangible issues, I still would dream of what my life would be like in years to come and never run out of options—where I would live, whom I would marry, if I would marry, what I would be when I grew up . . .

The practical, nagging details of life—those broken relationships, failed projects, sad farewells to loved ones, dashed expectations, not to mention the tedious, endless repetition of chores and tasks that accompany adulthood—they amalgamate every day, threatening to overtake and eventually completely replace wonder and hope.

My army to fight the emotional, psychological, and spiritual battle against Father Time is better equipped and more strongly fortified than the physical one. It has been reinforced through years of reading, contemplation, discussion, exposure to film, art, and music. It has been supported by sympathetic family, loved ones, and friends of similar inclinations, some of whom are further along in their own fights, others who have yet to engage, and still others directly alongside me, digging their own trenches.

When I see a Pixar film, or watch Downton Abbey, or walk through downtown Haddonfield, or make a visit to the Byer’s Choice shop, or put up lights and decorations, or sit on a couch eating Halloween candy and listening to Pandora, or look through magazines and catalogs for updates to my wardrobe or my home, or send silly and ridiculous messages to parents, friends, or my husband, or sit down to write blog posts, or listen to “Walking in the Air,” I use as much as I can of whatever remains of my childhood imagination, my creative spirit, my heart filled with eager expectation.

When I hear this song, I actually feel like I am floating in a marvelous winter wonderland—a cold, silver sky; the earth engulfed in blue and white; wind and chill whipping around me as the world I know is transformed into a magical, even if ephemeral, place.

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” Charles Dickens


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