Saturday, January 2, 2016

Peculiar Children

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was. Likewise, I never imagined that home might be something I would miss.”  ~ Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

As children, we never imagine our lives to be extraordinary, unless of course we are engaging in the land of make-believe. And, oh what a land make-believe can be for small children. It is filled with the fanciful and improbable, perhaps a vast kingdom of our very own, or pirate ships, or mayhaps even the wild, wild west.

As we grow older, as we all do, we put our childish things away and begin to behave as adults do. We become stoic, prim and proper, or to put it simply, we become just like everyone else. Soon, the land of make-believe becomes distant memories of a time  long forgotten and lost in the hustle and bustle of adult life. We forget how to dream.

I don’t know about you, but when I go home to the small town where I grew up, I find myself wandering in the mists of time. Everything is different, yet the same. The schoolyard of the elementary years still sits a half a block from the house where I grew into a young lady. When I look across the landscape, I see a different playground than the one that exists today. I see a tall silver slide, where Henry fell from the top and in all of our seven years, we believed him to be quite dead. He wasn’t. I see the old wooden merry-go-round and hear the chanting voices of children crying, “Faster! Faster! Faster!”

My eyes move toward the city swimming pool that sits empty just across the street. The scene shifts to a hot summer day when I stood staring into the abyss of the ten feet of water below me. The kids in line behind me taunting me to jump, I face my fear and take a leap of faith.

I kick the dust and gravel of the alleyway that separates the school from the neighbors, making my way toward home – home that isn’t my home anymore. Strangers live in that old house now. Sure, I know the mother. She was my older sister’s best friend all those years ago. Some things change, but the walls of that house, they hold all the laughter and the tears of my youth. The basement the scene of a roller disco unlike anything the world had ever seen, and probably should never see again. It was the venue for world champion gymnastics, and the greatest superstars that would ever grace the stages of the world.

At the end of the driveway stand two great mountains of snow, where King of the Mountain took on a whole new meaning. Our mother would scold us for digging snow tunnels, certain they would cave in and kill us all. In the spring, the melting mountains became streams that swelled into rushing rivers where paper or stick boats raced their way to the finish line – the grate to the underbelly of the city.

Just up the hill and a ways more the open fields are covered in snow. The smell of fuel and the roar of the snowmobiles as they raced, bouncing across the crests of snow fill the air.
Our lives as children were anything but ordinary; we simply failed to see just how extraordinary it was. Our hearts and minds were open to the possibilities of the universe. We were uninhibited in our imagination and our hope for something more, something grander than we viewed as our ordinary lives. Perhaps, we appear a bit peculiar in our memories. Perhaps we weren’t quite what we would view as perfect. But, oh what an extraordinary time it was.

Children need to imagine, to dream and to hope. They require something more than the mundane existence of mini-adults. They need to get to dirty, and bruised. They need to create adventures they otherwise wouldn’t have. They need to have a place to go back to when they have grown, and smile, and laugh, and perhaps take just one more spin on the merry-go-round, chanting, “Faster! Faster! Faster!”

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