Essay: Innocence

Michelle Mantor and “Friday” – Published in the December 2011 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo By Evin Thayer

Dec PhotoAs many of you know, I recently lost my beautiful Briard, “Remy” after 15 wonderful years. I had always promised her a 2-page tribute in PetTalk when she passed. Because she lived to be 15, I had to go through shoeboxes of photos to put the story together since there were no digital photos of her early years.

As I looked through family photos spanning more than a decade, I experienced many emotions…joy, laughter, sorrow…and the tears to match all those feelings came pouring out. My daughter was with me and she asked, “Mom, why are you crying because of pictures”? It struck me that one of the very reasons I was crying was the quality she was exemplifying at that moment…innocence.

Innocence can bring forth feelings of great happiness as well as sadness. As I looked at the photos of my children when they were toddlers with their sweet little faces and cute poses, I realized those days of “young child innocence” were gone and my babies had grown up to nearly be teenagers. Never again would I have that baby in my arms, that small hand reaching up to grab mine to walk with me or the outstretched arms wanting me to pick them up and swing them about. Those thoughts hurt deeply in a way only a mother can know.

But juxtaposed to that sadness, was the joy of innocence. I smiled at the photos of my son at his Chucky Cheese birthday party as he fully believed Chucky was a real being. I smiled at the photos of Remy as a young pup exuberant to play the same game of chase over and over. I smiled at my daughter’s innocence of asking why I was crying by the mere simple act of “looking at pictures”.

Innocence to me implies a naiveté, a vulnerability that can so easily be harmed or lost forever. When I reflect about my strong feelings toward animal abuse or the pain I feel when I see a stray, neglected dog, I know my passion for helping them is born out of knowing how innocent they are. They don’t have the tools to survive in man’s world and they rely on us to be their stewards.

As adults, our innocence is lost. We are full of pretense, racism, insecurities, and falsehoods. Just one look at our society and we see cheaters, phonies and fabrications. From the “reality shows” that are scripted, to artificial body parts to photoshopped images and dishonest politicians, it can make one wary or even cynical. What’s real? Who is honest? Where do I place my trust?

When we look at children, we don’t see those impurities. We see pure awareness, honesty and joyous attitudes that are open to possibilities. We see hearts willing to love and accept with no preconditions. I see those same characteristics my pets. And, just like in my children and my pets, I love their innocence and feel great pain if they are mistreated or if they were to lose this wonderful virtue.

I don’t think it’s possible for us to back to the state of innocence as an adult, but I think we can appreciate the existence of it in children and animals and do everything in our power to protect it. I also think we can momentarily find the wonder of innocence as adults if we just allow ourselves to lift the burden of the knowledge we have and the restrictions we place on ourselves. Playing chase with our dog or barbies with our child gives us the chance to be an innocent kid again. Truthfully, this is one of the reasons I love the holiday season and all the Christmas traditions. It brings out wonder, hope and the excitement of possibilities to come.

This Christmas, let the child inside you have fun. Go ice-skating, make a gingerbread house, go caroling, bake a cake for a lonely neighbor…let the age of innocence return, if only for a moment.




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