When I was young, life was about dancing in the pouring rain while everyone else stared smugly from beneath umbrellas, going on strike against having to take icky-tasting cough medicine, frolicking with our beloved German Shepherds, and wishing for a blanket of snow instead of the blistering Florida heat.
It was also about that special kind of freedom that we all forever miss and seeing things that no one else seemed to glimpse, both real and imaginary. I never got to meet my grandfather during his life but once he peeked playfully around the hallway corner at me and waved. Despite never having seen a picture of him before, I described him to mom, from his favorite plaid shirt, to his gray-blue eyes and tall stature, to his huge warming smile.
When I was young, nearly five to be exact, dad traveled a lot for his job as a salesman and in an attempt to get him to play with me instead of going off to do boring grown-up things, I took his wallet, secreting it in the sofa cushion, even zipping it up and turning it over to prevent him from discovering it.
Other fiendish schemes included snatching the car keys and dangling them like ornaments inside the Christmas tree, and flushing dad's detachable front teeth down the commode. The wallet and keys were eventually found but the bridge had to be replaced. After a while, realizing that he really needed to go to work and wasn't just leaving to be a meany, I stopped doing these things.
When I was young, I had a huge collection of stuffed toy animals and loved them all. The favorites, however, were two black dogs (father and son) named Storm and Storm Jr, named after a German Shepherd mom had years ago. From the playground at school, to friend's houses, to long rides in the car, they and other "critters" as we called them went everywhere with me for the longest time.
Sadly they were lost when we moved to a new house three years ago and I can't keep them as mementos, but they left memories, embodying a love of dogs, life, and my parents.
When I was young, mom and dad could banish the fear of any monster that emerged from any nook or cranny, and apparently this power is hereditary, for the joy of fiction is that now your monsters can't scare you, and have to do whatever you say...
When I was young, the realization came that crying does not always solve one's problems, but sometimes, being sensitive means you just can't help it. But it also means you can understand and be there for other people better, a thing that never stops being useful in our journey as human beings.
When I was young I was a free spirit who often wrote and illustrated little stapled-together picture books and wanted to play all the time, much to the annoyance of teachers who insisted this willful child needed to be pacified with Ritalin, which mom never allowed. No matter how much discipline they administered I was always off in some other world having adventures and daydreaming about what it would be like if cats had jetpacks and could fly, or if aliens walked among us, or if people with really vivid imaginations could actually bring their ideas to life.
Of course, growing up and responsibility called and these other worlds had to take a rest, but it was always a welcome retreat and an antidote for boredom.
The other kids at school always called me weird, which was insulting at the time, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.