OPINION: A fearful farewell to the dragon of childhood

By Noah Rothman, Senior Editor

“A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys,” is a line from Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Puff the Magic Dragon. Here I am, three days before I turn 18, being saddened by this line. I can’t help but compare myself to Holden Caulfield, my favorite anti-hero. The mysterious novel The Catcher in the Rye is the only book north of 50 pages that I have read more than once. Holden informed so much of who I am today, and as I’m in his position, I can’t help but mentally compare myself to him.

My troubles come at what should be a more lax part of my high school career. Last night my parents set a curfew for me—the first time this has occurred in high school. In my second semester of my senior year, three days before I turn 18, two months before I graduate, my parents imposed a curfew on me. After a long argument with my dad, I left the house in frustration, not understanding the sudden, and in my opinion untimely, rationale behind this. I think my dad is trying to cling on to what little childhood I still have left. “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys.”

My childhood is coming to an end, whether I want it to or not.

Senior year can be a joyous occasion for many, and for others a disappointing and discouraging year. It’s second semester senior year, I should be taking school lightly—which I am—and be locked into a college—which I’m not. The college process didn’t work out for me as well as I had hoped it would. They say it’s random, but I have no one to blame but myself. My post-Israel options are consequences of my own actions. I guess after my fight with my dad last night, I really started to realize that. I kept on telling him that he has two more months of parenting, and then he is done forever—I’m the youngest. I am working at a special needs camp in New York this summer. Then early September, I head off to yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem.

I guess what I’m really getting at is I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. I’ve accomplished a lot in my high school career. To be immodest for a moment, I started a minyan at my school that is the largest student-led minyan in the country. I wrote an article about a major contemporary halachic issue which received over 25,000 hits. Today, a junior boy told me that his grade discussed how I was the epitome of the leader that his grade wanted and needed, a compliment which I do not take lightly. Yet as I sit at Shabbat meals, talk with family and friends, I do my best to avoid the subject of what I’m doing for college.

Again I think about that line, “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys.” I don’t even know if I fully understand it, but it forces one troubling thought into my mind: my childhood is coming to an end, whether I want it to or not. The statement, “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys,” feels ironic to me. Somehow the fantasized fire-breathing dragon I pictured as a child is the part of my youth that continues to live on, and my formerly young and innocent self is the part that will no longer remain. The Noah that used to play “pretend” with his cousin Avi is no longer, but that game still remains. The priceless memories live on, and I get to tell them to those around me, but I don’t get to play that game anymore. The once seven-year-old Noah and Avi have outgrown acting like wizards and jedis in my backyard on Shabbos. Holden Caulfield knows this too. He’s the one who first showed this to me. I know why Holden wants to stand at the edge of the cliff and make sure that not only does the “dragon” live forever, but so too little boys.

The little boy in me is soon to be no more, plain and simple. The “dragon” of childhood will live on elsewhere, and it will no longer be my place or turn to access it. It feels like 18 years of childhood are being pushed over a cliff. Eighteen years of good times and bad times are soon to be sealed. One of the scariest parts to me is I feel as though the 18 years are happening to me, like fate. Life is happening to me at this point, not me controlling my life. Whether I like it or not, and as scary as it is, I have to move on. I am no longer a little boy. Never again will I get to experience being a child, and the unknown of what is to come terrifies me.