Tuesday, March 6

chainlink fences

This is the cover of a lost book. Formerly lost, I should say. When I read it the first time I don't know how old I was. All I remembered for the longest time afterward was that it came from the closet at grandmother's house and it was full of fairies and mystery.

For years I've wondered what happened to the book. I fruitlessly searched for its title in every library database I came across. I'd practically given up on ever finding it. There are a lot of books in my past. Tracing them all would be impossible. And deep down I knew that whatever I imagined was special about this book was probably nothing more than the wonder of childhood, a perspective I'll never get back, no matter how many libraries I tear through.

I checked out the biography of P.L.Travers the other week. In Ms. Valerie Lawson's account of the author's beginnings there is much wonder and a little magic. Little people in the grass, just like I always pretended when I was laying out in the backyard with a cup of lemonade. An obsession for constellations and mythology, just as I hungrily passed through when I was younger. A fierce longing to be somewhere else, to deny your birth in this dull place here and run off to dreamed-of elsewheres. Just like me.

Childhood is so odd to me, in a frightening and fascinating way. There seems a sense that your own childhood is the very first one; the only one, after all, that you will ever experience. The world begins with your eyes seeing it. The rhymes are called into existence just for you and all the stories unfold to be your own stories. This game was invented for you to play in this blink of sunny now. New and transient, everything.

But behind all this you learn that someone did have to teach you these things: how to play, how to sing, how to run. There are uncountable childhoods, and there will be so many more. You are not the first. Ms. Marian Cockrell wrote her Shadow Castle a full twenty years before you were born. The copy you bought from some stranger in Maine for 25 cents plus shipping is starting to fall apart.

I am afraid to read it. What if the magic really is gone? What if I am far too grown up to see the same mysteries?

No comments: