When I Wore Wings

I had to give up Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy, but I refuse to give up the Loch Ness Monster. I  absolutely adore tales of Nessie, along with those of all other sea monsters.  I love the grainy, out-of-focus pictures and the videos that somehow never quite display the monster they purport to reveal. I’d prefer to believe in Big Foot, also, both in its North American incarnation, or as the Yeti.  I long to believe garden fairies, and mermaids, and dragons.

The simple truth is, I miss the overwhelming sense of wonder I had in childhood, when life was a series of endless, unimaginable possibilities; when daydreams were an alternate reality. I miss it all dreadfully. And that is why I long to, choose to, believe in the unbelievable: in lovely legends, and in miracles.

Children see the world using brains that are not yet imprisoned in the confines of an oft-unpalatable reality. As adults, we find their thought patterns difficult to follow, and invariably label those patterns as “wrong” or “undeveloped”.  “Magical thinking”, we call their unusual and curious view of cause-and-effect. But their thought patterns are neither wrong nor undeveloped; they are simply different.  (And, let’s be frank: as adults, it would be a touch frightening to admit that those childish thought patterns might, after all, be right.)

I recall an article I read once in which a woman, who as an adult was identified as having a mild form of brain disorder, described her first day of school as a child. Distracted by something, she sat down on the school steps and the principal, happening by, asked her if she did not know where she was supposed to be. She found his question bewildering.  Of course she knew where she was supposed to be: she was supposed to be in her body.  And she was.

Another adult told me of a friend’s small child who’d received a poor mark on an school paper.  The exercise was intended to determine if children could understand the difference between reality and fantasy.   The child had labeled the statement, “The little tan dog barked” as fantasy.  Why on earth, her mother scolded, would she say that was fantasy?  To which the upset child protested, “I didn’t know doggies could get a tan!”

A few years later my own daughter received that same paper, and, while passing the tan doggie question correctly, marked “The whale sounded and moved to the surface”, as fantasy. Just as that other mother had done, I scolded, and received a wailing protest, “But whales are under water! They can’t talk!  The Little Mermaid is PRETEND, Mommy!!”

I want a child’s brain like that. I am tired of seeing the world in black and white and sepia and grey.  I want to see it in brilliant technicolor.  I want a brain which denies that doggies can get a tan, or that doesn’t yet know a thing about whale song, so that it comes as a brilliant surprise.  I want a brain that understands that I’m supposed to be in my body.  I want a mind that sees wonders and marvels and sensations everywhere. I want existence as it once was, as in the poem I wrote decades ago:

When I Wore Wings

When I wore wings and gowns of green and jewel-dusted robes,
I danced on clouds and rainbowed paths, and sported crowns of gold.
I flitted soft from wood to sea, and rested on the stars;
vacationed in the silent spheres—on Venus, and on Mars.

But then, as creatures of my sort, it seems, must always do,
I traded up my crowns and robes for less enticing truths.
I placed my dreams on dusty shelves with labels (“Childhood Days”)
and took as recompense a drear allotment underpaid.

Yet, somehow she lives on in me, that creature lost in time,
for sometimes, when I least expect, her eyes look out through mine,
to glimpse the pixies dancing ‘mid the roots of giant trees,
or light from secret cities at the bottom of the sea.

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