My oldest daughter is at an age now, caught between implicit belief in things and learning how things really work. She can understand how it only seems that the sun rises and sets, but know that we’re on a rotating sphere, which in turn revolves around a cosmic, nuclear furnace.
And yet she still believes in Santa Claus. It is a magical time. I use that word advisedly; it is specifically magical;there are instances of magical thinking, the first steps in parsing the universe with a small but accumulated body of knowledge.
In the world of photography and filming, there’s something called “the Golden Hour,” or sometimes “The Magic Hour.” It is usually the first or last hour of sunlight; when the sun is nearer to the horizon and spreads out light in a more diffuse way. It bathes everything in a beautiful softness that only lasts so long; shadows are less dark and colors are warm and painted with edges of gold.
It got me thinking about my own “golden hour” of childhood, and the things I believed in, as articles of faith. I wrote them down in a quick list, stream of consciousness style, more for personal reference than anything else. It ended up sounding almost like a poem, as I said it out loud, although I didn’t intend for it to be one.
In no particular order:
Quicksand, lasers, blood brothers and pinkie-swears, dim mak death touches, Muhammed Ali Marvin Hagler and Bruce Lee (my holy trinity), magnifying lenses as superpowers, plastic surgery as spycraft, radioactive spiders and cosmic rays, elves and little folk–always ducking just out of sight in walks through woods, wish-granting lamps or rings to be found at tag sales, whoosh sounds and cracks from kung-fu movies- practice hard enough and they would happen, King Arthur and Excalibur, ninjas and samurai, might for right, the good guy always wins, a hidden island soon to be found teeming with dinosaurs, Cropsy the axe-killer and his lame dragging leg-listening for it from inside a tent, fighting sleep, indelible ink triggered by fire-alarm levers, urine-activated dye in pools,no matter who your dad may be: my dad could beat up your dad, the danger of swearing on one’s life, the *possibility* of a hand appearing under the bed and the dark thrill of lowering my head over the side to peek down, that drinking from Nostradamus’ skull leads to powers and curses, registering hands and feet as deadly weapons, ventriloquist’s dummies being inherently haunted and not to be trifled with, the lethal combination of Pop Rocks and Soda and the untimley demise of Mikey (a kid I knew knew a kid who knew his family, so he said; he swore it was true), prisms and pendulums, pulled flower petals as divination to peer into a girl’s heart: she loves me not, three-time widdershins walks around churches leading to lands in universes next door (but only so long as you knew your widdershins from your sunwise), dwarf-crafted swords somewhere in Norway, Hitler’s quest for the Spear of Destiny, the existence of mithril, later adamantanium, twenty sided dice, Batman, Superman and Green Lantern but never Aquaman.
Magic words and spells: sounds of power to be uttered like Shazam that could transform the weak and worthy in a flash of light into the strong and destined; a secret language of the apes hidden in the pages of paperback Tarzan books, unknowable ancient Hebrew letters in arcane configurations that could spell secret divine names to work magic best left unworked, Witch Mountain and returning to it; staring hard at a pencil and willing it to move.
My parents as invulnerable and immortal; always adult but never old.