Friday, February 03, 2006


I took the syllabi in today for my classes next year. On my way home I noticed that there were no birds in the river AT ALL. The coypu was not there either. I wonder where they all went?

A little further along the way home there were dozens of children all over the road. School had just finished for the day and they were all over the place. Some were in groups, chatting. Others were playing boisterously all over the road. Some of the boys were mock-fighting, and a few children were walking alone, dreaming.

I watched the solitary ones. What were they thinking, I wondered? What were they dreaming? I really have no idea what children dream about. Even when I was a child I had no idea what other children were thinking. I knew I was different, because I was, and whatever went on in their heads was a mystery to me. I didn't like being different, but it was forced upon me by the upbringing I had. I wanted to be normal but at the same time I knew (because I'd been told) that other people were bad. Only we were good. There was us, the good people, and there was the rest of the world, the bad people. Those people watched TV and read novels and magazines and listened to the radio, and went to the movies and did other evil things like that. They went to the beach on Sundays! They wouldn't go to heaven. We would. I didn't think I wanted to go to hell, but I wondered what their lives were like. I really didn't know.

But children know when something is not quite right, even when their thoughts are being policed so severely they don't allow it into consciousness. To even dare think that maybe there was a life for me outside of our way of living was not possible. On the other hand, I could, and did, play a lot of 'what if?' games inside my head. These 'what if?' scenarios were based on things I'd read, which wasn't a lot, but my reading fed my fantasies rather more than my parents and elders could have imagined. That was because most of what I read had to do with wars and disasters.

While most novels were banned (aside from a few approved for study at school), non-fiction was allowed, or at least some non-fiction was, and since my father was deeply interested (somewhat quietly, just in case) in history, we had quite a few books about various wars and disasters. These were all non-fiction, of course, but a lot of them were of the type that is unfashionable these days, being rather one-sided good vs evil hagiographies about Great Men, or at least about heroes. They were stories of heroic resistance against terrible odds, of concentration camps, and torture, and so on. There were also adventure stories and books about disasters and earthquakes and things like that. I read them all.

So while my classmates were having their fantasies about ... what? TV? I was fantasizing about the school suddenly exploding with me being the only survivor IN THE WHOLE TOWN, or New Zealand being invaded by Germans or Japanese or godless Communists, or a massive earthquake hitting the ENTIRE COUNTRY, or volcanoes erupting, or wildfires spreading through the land and causing massive disruption, or plagues that only a select group of people (myself included, of course) were mysteriously immune to. My family, in these fantasies, didn't die, exactly (I was a little squeamish about letting that happen) but they did conveniently go missing and their status was unknown. I thought they were probably dead, but I didn't know for sure, and I definitely didn't see it happen. This made it all right. The same also went for all the members of the church, leaving me, the only good person left. I would have to fend for myself in the evil world where I would HAVE to watch TV and listen to the radio and read magazines and novels and go to the movies, for reasons I was a little fuzzy about (I wasn't quite sure what these things entailed) and it would NOT BE MY FAULT. It would be a necessity forced upon me, and I would be reluctant, because I knew how evil it all was. But I would be brave and heroic and would remain pure and good anyway. I would rescue people (even though the poor sinners didn't really deserve it), and I would never, ever, betray anybody under torture, however much TV they had watched, and even though they would be going to hell anyway. I would be good. And free. I would fight fires, rescue people from earthquake-struck buildings, join the resistance, and trick the enemy.

I was particularly interested in tricking the enemy, and most of my fantasies came back to this one. I was an excellent liar, and nobody would disbelieve a small girl, I was sure. I had become good at lying because it helped me to survive at school. Even a child knows that you can't tell a classmate that you can't go to her sixth birthday party because she and her family and friends are evil. You make something up, and lie through your teeth. I learned to do this QUICKLY - other kids, and teachers, were always suddenly asking me to do things I couldn't do or questions I couldn't answer. I lied all the time. So a lot of my fantasies were about tricking the enemy, because I knew I would be good at it. I'd had a lot of practice. I wanted to be a spy. My spying might take me to the beach on Sundays, but it would be all right because it would be in a good cause.

I spent most of the interminable hours in church fantasising. This is probably why, despite having to go to church every evening of the week and several times over the weekend all through my childhood, I can't really tell you the reasons behind all those rules we had to live by even though they were talked about all the time. All those men droning on about their fantasies and making up new rules for us to follow didn't interest me at all. My fantasies, however, were FABULOUS.

What did you fantasize about when you were a child?


carrie said...

I worried A LOT about the Russians coming and killing everyone. I was constantly working out survival plans. Which cupboard would be the best to hide in? Should I steal one of my dad's guns and put it beside my bed? (I didn't). What would I eat when the Russians came and killed everyone and left me because I was so cleverly hidden?

I also fantasized about dying and going to heaven because all my favorite book characters were waiting for me in heaven. I lost myself in books, mostly. When I wasn't worried about the Russians.

That sounds like one strict church. Yikes!

Oh, and I was an excellent liar b/c I didn't really know better. I always thought it was strange that I would lie about anything and everything even though people thought I was a really great kid. I did some reading on children of alcohoilcs and it turns out lying is one of our traits. Weird.

Robert said...

I never really had a very active fantasy life as a kid. I was very involved with music, so I suppose I wanted to be a famous concert musician. And I had the typical sports champion fantasies. But beyond that? Not so much. I really had a blank period in my childhood when I stopped reading (as I got involved in music), so my imagination wasn't challenged that way until my third year of college. Of all books to bring me back into reading, it was Moby-Dick.

Radioactive Jam said...

Hi, what a great story! Although... if you *are* a tricksy, successful liar...?

I remember two elaborate fantasies. One involved a huge underground network of tunnels and caves with a secret entrance accessible from my bedroom; the other somehow had me on the moon, waiting to greet astronauts. So far though, not much progress in these areas.

kenju said...

I am sorry to hear that you had all that in your childhood. I cannot imagine having to go to church that often.

I used to fantasize that I might become a famous movie star!..LOL

Pookie65 said...

It sounds like we have a similar religious background. My mothers father was a self-annointed, Southern Baptist minister. Enough said.

As for my childhood fantasies I had a love for laying in the grass day dreaming of being small enough to walk about the ground and each blade towering over me.

Then in 4th grade I began a fantasy for the gym teacher (a hunk of a man) to turn me over his knee and spank me. Oh, don't ask! Suffice it to say that on occasion I'd misbehave horribly in gym in hopes that he'd get mad enough to smack my young buttocks with his bare hand. This went on all the way through grade 7. Dammit he was just too nice of a guy. Never got mad at me once. I think he was a mind reader.

I cannot believe I just told you this!

Wendy said...

I also had a strict Baptist upbringing - but not as hectic in the churchgoing as you had - and my fantasies were similar to yours...lots of great, terrible disasters in which I'd come out a shining heroine - and my family were also always lost...and I lied a lot too because I lived in a fantasy world. I read my way through childhood - from age 5 - and always had my nose in a book and when I wasn't reading I was dreaming my wild secret dreams.