Illusions of Childhood

Beth WiesemannJuly 4, 2014 

Your life is not real. Everything you believe, has been turned upside down and nothing is what it seems. For instance, that man in the red suit with the long white beard is an imposter. When you went to sleep at night, there was nothing under your pillow. In the morning, there’s a quarter. (No, I’m not adjusting for inflation. Just play along for now.) This is not the plot of a sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise. This is something far more ominous. This is ... childhood; it’s the land of impossibly tall people and monsters in the closets. You’re a prisoner, taking orders from the giants. “Eat your vegetables.” “Go to bed.” “Finish your homework.” “Stop sticking Barbie Doll shoes up your nose.” COMPLETE. MIND. CONTROL.

As an adult, you find out that the world wasn’t really that big. You were just really small. And apparently, really stupid. The Tooth Fairy? Really? If fairies were actually real, think about what a remarkable thing that would be. With those powers, they would be flying around the universe curing deadly diseases or rescuing people from natural disasters. When the Grand Panel of Supreme Fairies sits around the table to decide how best to use their powers, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would suggest paying children to put icky teeth under their pillows. Did anyone ever wonder what a bunch of fairies did with a huge collection of teeth? Perhaps in Fairy Land, teeth are currency. What’s the exchange rate? When I was a child, it was a flat rate of one quarter. Incisors, molars, canines; it didn’t make any difference. I would think a pointy tooth would command more money, but that’s just me.

Don’t even get me started on Santa Claus. He has flying reindeer. They can easily access mountains and volcano peaks. He can have a bird’s-eye view of all of the oceans. It’s doubtful that someone with that kind of ability would spend the majority of his free time hanging out in shopping malls. And exactly how did anyone expect him to squeeze a bicycle down a chimney chute?

Have you ever gone back to a place from your childhood and wondered why everything is sooooo small? Look at any first-grade classroom. It’s like Barbie Dreamhouse furniture in there. The thought of fitting my butt into one of those little desks is even more ridiculous than the thought of trying to fit one leg into my blue jeans from high school. Of course, the blue jean thing is far more depressing since I reached my full height in the eighth grade. But I digress.

When I was a child, I used to go over to my grandparents’ apartment to go swimming. My sister and I would take that mile-long trek around the complex to get to that Olympic-sized swimming pool. It took a while because my grandfather had suffered a stroke and couldn’t walk very fast. Nowadays, my office is just up the road from that apartment complex. During the occasional lunchtime walks, I enjoy taking a trip down Memory Lane. The Olympic-sized pool has been filled in and is now a courtyard that looks about big enough to hold a bird bath. And when I stand there marveling at how small the space is, I can see my grandparents’ old apartment from where I’m standing. Unless there’s been a massive shift in the time space continuum, I’d say that mile-long walk was more like 600 ft. I don’t think grandpa walked that slow.

Lies. So many lies told to placate me. When I asked for something and was told, “we’ll see”, that was a load of garbage! But I childishly believed that there would be serious thought and reflection put into my request. Of course, it was worse when my parents were children. For example, my mom didn’t start talking until she was three-years-old. In today’s world, doctors would wonder about delayed development and all kinds of spectrums. Back in the ‘40s, my grandma’s doctor told her my mom was a “deep thinker”. Popular science theorizes that we have no cognitive memories before the age of three, so I can’t accurately recall what I was thinking about back when I was toddler. However, whatever it was, it’s safe to say that there wasn’t any complex hypothesizing going into what was rattling around in my head. I’m pretty sure all I thought about was pretty colors, hunger and an uncomfortable diaper that didn’t especially smell too good all the time.

Childhood used to be a very simple, and at times, magical place to be. When I was small, it was reassuring to know that the giant people knew EVERYTHING. They showed me how to dial seven numbers on a telephone. They held on to the bicycle seat until I could ride away on my own. When I grew up, I had hoped I would turn into an all-knowing giant, too. For a short while, it was all going as planned until the Internet, Google and smartphones ruined everything. Now, when the little people want to know something, they can just ask their telephones. These, of course, would be the same telephones that we giants have to ask them how to dial.

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