I often use this old Victorian Christmas card as a cover picture on my Facebook profile because I like the fiction of it, that there was once a time when children were innocent and approached holidays with a sense of untroubled joy.
Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning The Age of Innocence while on the surface purporting to be set in a more glorified time of wonder, portrays no innocence. Whatton considered the title to be ironic.
Even if we go back in time no farther than Charles Dickens work, we see that childhood, in general, wasn’t a sheltered time of grace. We hope, of course, that our children and grandchildren will remain innocent even into grade school. And depending on their circumstances, they may truly have no knowledge of the worst the world–or even their neighborhood–has to offer.
I’m glad that my two granddaughters don’t know what I know. Yet, assuming no catastrophe alters their lives, they don’t yet know anything about many evil things. Sadly, we must begin chipping away at their innocence to keep them safe: “Don’t get in a stranger’s car,” “Don’t wander away from your group on a school field trip,” etc.
Novelist Robertson Davies wrote that ““One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” Long term, that is true. Personally, I favor my own mystery over innocence, but I want children in general and my two granddaughters in particular, to have a few years of wonder and magic before they learn the harsh realities of the world.
These old Christmas cards make me believe that might be possible.