Everyone ought to have — well, what is it that everyone ought to have? No, not a machine, not necessarily a garden and not even a camera. Everyone ought to have children. If not children of their own, then borrowed ones or nieces or nephews or the neighbor’s kids. Everyone ought to have children.
People who have no children anywhere in their environment to whom they can talk intimately soon become queer and lop-sided. They may not always realize it but others will find them awkward and stilted and covered with cobwebs and dust. Such people will be found hard to get on with and full of snippiness. It is half what ails folks, that so many of them have no children in their lives and it affects them like malnutrition. Let a baby enter a street car filled with moldy, musty grown-ups and watch the starved looks and the foolish and pathetic boohs and pokes they will dart in the direction of the child.
It is often my privilege to tell stories to a group of babies, and one day when they were crowded close around me one of them exclaimed — “Hey, you spit right in my eye.” Then it came to me what a lot of eyes I had probably spit into all down the years, and how no one had ever told me of it so frankly before. Children are so honest until we teach them to say that they’re sorry when they’re not, and to listen to stories that bore them and to pretend not to like Jazz when all the time they do.
Contact with children takes us back to the genesis of our being and revives in us something primitive and honest and natural. I saw a man recently being led out of a grown-up meeting by the hand of a child and he looked so cross about it and was so obviously trying to maintain his dignity while the child hurried him up the aisle. I thought how silly. When a child has to leave a meeting he has to, that’s all, and there’s no use in arguing or getting cross about it. And really how good it was for that pompous individual to get taken down a peg by the terribly human appeal of a little child.
All of us ought to find some children to tell stories to for our own sakes. And then when we have gotten Jack up the beanstalk and into the ogre’s kitchen, and the ogre says in an awful voice — “I smell a human being,” perhaps there will come to us some of the old thrill that we had forgotten.
If you don’t know any children intimately, children who call you “George” or “Auntie Flo,” children who run to meet you, children who hurt your pockets with anticipation, children to whom you read the funnies or whom you take to the movies, children for whom you may revive your childhood tricks of making a blade of grass squawk, or wiggling your scalp, or cutting out a row of dancing paper dolls, then hurry and get acquainted even if you are driven to pick them up. If you don’t, then as sure as you’re alive, you’ll find yourself growing queer.