The time machine can take you anywhere in your childhood.
To a taste. A feeling. A moment. A year. A sensation.
It won’t take you somewhere nasty. Nowhere you wouldn’t want to return to, just somewhere you’ve been and loved in those innocent days of being a kid.
How utterly fascinating it would be to return, to revisit. To relive. ABC radio host Richard Glover had this very same chat with former television host and children’s author Gretel Killeen when talking about her new children’s book.
She spoke about how she loved being transported back into the headspace of a child when she was writing kids’ fiction and Richard asked her which moments of her childhood would she want to recapture if she could.
Gretel answered that she missed Fearlessness. Learning to ride a bike by climbing on it and hurtling down a hill until you hit something. How a mother’s kiss really did make things better. The smell of burning-off. And of uncontrollable giggling when you knew you weren’t allowed to laugh.
Me? I’d go back and revel in the wonder. The awe of being a speck of a human living out days that seemed to stretch forever.
As a very young boy I honestly believed I could fly. Not just in a plane or helicopter but by myself, under the power of my own ill-equipped little limbs.
All I needed, I reasoned, were the wings.
And so I recruited my older brother who was effortlessly sceptical about the whole enterprise to trace out big, bold, bird shaped wings on butcher’s paper so that I could attach them to my arms with masking tape. I had no real knowledge of physics or the hollow bone structure of birds and, if I did, I wouldn’t have been so single-minded about my attempt at personal flight.
There’s a fabulous line from Douglas Adams when he describes some bulky spaceships: “They hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
I bounced, bounced, bounced on the trampoline and launched myself into the air. And gravity, before I even knew what it was, told me where I belonged.
I had a similar experience when I had to build a space ship for my School of Distance Education class. The idea was to get us excited about space and science and my brief was to build a space-ship out of whatever I had laying about the house, so that I could visit a green alien on another planet.
Why yes, I thought, I would very much like to visit this green alien.
I was very solemn about the mission; explaining to my mum and dad that I might be gone for some time and that they should pack extra undies. They didn’t seem to be as concerned as me and I put it down to them being so sad they didn’t really want to talk about it.
My space-ship had a GladWrap windshield (impervious to space rocks and other detritus) and an instrument panel made from egg cartons, alfoil and toilet rolls. I didn’t consider for a second how the thousand degree plus temperatures would affect my cardboard shuttle upon its re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed, I didn’t know anything about anything.
I just thought, fully and without an inkling of doubt, that I would soon be blasting off into space.
This isn’t a post about the fact I learned I couldn’t fly, or that my space ship was little more functional than a brick.
This is a post about the fact that, at some point in my childhood, I thought I could fly and that my spaceship would work.
Without wanting to sound outrageously wistful, I miss the days when using your imagination wasn’t reinforced with crushing pragmatism. When you could dream without budgets or caveats or sunset clauses. The innocence of wonder, the wonder of innocence, is something that people forget about all too often.
I’d like to go back to just one of those moments, when everything was possible and no one would tell me it wasn’t.
Which moment in your childhood would you visit and why?