One of my favorite things in life is the guileless misinterpretations of children or their mental configurations in trying to figure out how things work. Children consider possibility in a way that the rest of us have cynically abandoned. Their considerations of what could be possible allow questions like eight-year-old Sarah who, while a friend was babysitting her, postulated, “I think there's a dinosaur still hiding out somewhere,” or a five-year-old who told my friend, her nanny, “My great-grandpa is 92 and he lives in this weird hotel,” describing his retirement home.
In rare moments, we are reminded by some trigger or reminder of our own misunderstandings and idiosyncratic leanings as children, and recalling them as adults, we are afforded a rare chance to reflect on and delineate the cause of our misgivings in light of all we've learned since. In those rare moments, we are allowed to remember a more innocuous version of ourselves in the context of a vast and puzzling world. Though, of course, they are much more numerous than this, I've created a list of my own childhood misgivings that I remembered years later, in adulthood, and for which I can now fill in the context or motivation. Here are a few of them, large and small:
At some point as a very young child−the way I remember it, I wasn't yet five years old−I woke up one morning and wondered about the possibility that I was still dreaming. Despite opening my eyes to the familiar arrangement of my room, (so familiar that I can see it now−the images I imagined in the patterns that the carpet fibers made, the small flowers that made the difference on the knobs on my bedpost,) I remember opening my eyes and wondering, “What if I’m still dreaming? What if this is the dream?” Th e thought arose from a momentary resistance to the authority of the observable. Th is notion followed me for a little while into my childhood. And every so oft en, I feared that my actions were visible to others who existed on the other side of “this dream.” If I was filling a glass with tap water, I imagined that those looking on from actual reality’s side saw my hand cupped around the stream, which fl owed straight into the drain. If I was picking flowers, I imagined that they watched me curiously lifting air from a tile floor, naively pulling up with empty hands. If we were one of my favorite things in life is the guileless misinterpretations of children saying grace before a meal, I would rub my eyes the whole time, because, what if, on the other side of this dream I was supposed to be paying attention and my eyes were closed?
When I was younger, my brothers always got to pick the movies we'd watch, and they always picked really violent action films, and violence bothered me significantly and kept me awake at night. So I made myself watch them with the intention of deliberately desensitizing myself, because I thought I'd have to watch violent movies forever, because that's just part of life.
I was sadder that Little Orphan Annie's real parents were dead than I was happy that she got to end up with Daddy Warbucks at the end. I still held out hope that she'd fi nd them. In the movie, when Mrs. Farrell said, “I interviewed 865 couples. None of them knew about the locket. I never realized how many dishonest people there are in New York,” I protested in my mind. Wait, what if those people really did lose a child who they thought was Annie? Maybe someone could have changed her name?
I thought the Don Henley song “Boys of Summer” meant that the speaker in the song was just having a really great time with his friends−the boys of summer−on the beach all summer, say, in a beach community where he was living, and when the summer was over and they left the beach community, he'd get back to paying attention to that girl with the slicked-back hair.
As a child, whenever someone elderly died, and I'd asked my dad how the person died, he, for some reason, would always say, “He forgot to breathe.” Therefore, I was terrified that I'd forget to breathe, not know how I continually “remembered.” I imagined this affliction as some strange combination of Alzheimers and pneumonia.
ANGIE MAZAKIS has been featured in numerous publications and recently received a 2010 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and second prize in the 2011 New Ohio Review Poetry Contest. She has an MA in English from Ohio University.