December 1999

"What would you give for your kid fears?" - Amy Ray

When I was little, I was scared of the dark. I wouldn't go into a dark room unless I absolutely had to, and if I did, I scanned the room with my actually rather good night vision to see if there were any monsters lurking in the corners or behind the desk. There was no reason to fear the dark, and later I grew out of it. But sometimes I look back on childhood, see how simple/complex it was and want to go back to it. To return to the fear of the dark. Childhood was a time when right and wrong were defined by adults, by the sacred code of the playground, and was enforced by a one-sided God of hate/love. You were either right or wrong in everything you did, and there weren't any gray areas to tax the conscience almost to the point of collapse. Crushes were natural things that you just didn't speak of, and so therefore they couldn't be labeled horrible or sinful. Imagination ruled, and reality could give way to the mind. Pleasure could always be found in such a simple thing as a sunny day or a fresh, cool breeze. Getting a new book was the height of existence. Teachers praised, and friends were true. Ah, optimism. The glass was always half full. And it was always half full of the ambrosia of life.

I've grown up. I've started to try and define what is right and wrong for me. The code of the playground is replaced by the code of silence. The one-sided God for me has been replaced by a multitude of deities that love only. I fight with myself about whether I was right or wrong. Gray areas abound. Crushes now have a lot of meaning, and we speak of them, which is very scary, because mine could easily be labeled sinful by a large majority of the people in the world. The imagination is still there, but it is dulled. The mind has a tentative rule over the heart. Pleasure is now a day free of stress, which is a rare thing indeed. A new book is a great thing, but no longer the end all and be all of the week. Teachers praise, but criticize more often. Friends aren't always true now. The glass is forever half empty- of sewer water. What happened? cried the dust speck.

Simplicity often overlays the complexity of life. There was a lot about the rules of childhood that I never understood. I never understood why my friends didn't hug each other, ever. I didn't understand why it was okay for the boys to play football, but it wasn't okay for me to join in. I didn't understand why it was the adults who ruled the world. I didn't see the reasoning for studying long division. I couldn't understand why I had to wear a uniform to school, nor exactly why my family had to move, and take me away from all my friends. I never really understood why my best friend stopped writing back to me. I never understood why bullies found me such an easy target, even though if I had wanted to and tried, I could have pulverized them. Despite all that, at least the world of childhood had some absolutes.

I'm tired of trying to be a teenager on the brink of adulthood. I want to go back to being nine years old and playing soldier with a stick for a gun and a yardstick for a sword. I want the simplicity of just going to school and coming home and, once in a while, going to a friend's house to play. I want the simple world where the school librarian knew what books I'd want to read even before I checked them out or saw them on the shelf. I want the world where I knew that in my clumsiness I'd skin my knee at least once a month. I want the simplicity of always knowing that if you had a problem, you could go to mom and dad to settle it. I want the simplicity of a world that told me what to think, how to act, what to say, and not to question the authority some greater power had bestowed upon my parents and teachers. What I'd give to be afraid of the dark again, instead of being afraid of dying tied to a fencepost. I don't want the options in front of me- to drink, or smoke, or do drugs, or have sex. I want the idealism that comes with being nine and invincible to everything except the monsters in the dark. How dangerous that wishful thinking is.

What would I give for my kid fears? Some days, the world, others, not even the dirt under my feet. When the world closes in, and rears its ugly head, I want the world of the nine-year-old, where I could just hide under the blankets to make the monsters go away. When the world is only just breathing its hot breath down my neck in threat, then I can face the challenges that it for some cruel reason sees fit to put in front of me. Maybe, if I'm lucky, that day, the glass will be half full of ambrosia, even if it's in the form of sewer water.


Now that I have sufficiently depressed everyone, let me take a moment and say may you all have a happy Solstice (or whatever holiday you happen to celebrate, if you celebrate one), an outstanding New Year's Eve, and a great start to 2000. Blessings and Pride for everyone.

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