I remember the calmness I felt as a child–the reassurance that can only come from believing that your parents know absolutely everything. This knowledge is safety. It’s refreshing the way that small children so willingly believe. I’m not talking about youthful ignorance. I’m referring to the free flowing trust that seems to dry up with age. The trust that doesn’t look for validation in the speaker’s eye movements, but instead in the height of their smile. This trust is an active and healthy imagination at work. At only seventeen, I notice myself listening, but only hearing after I do a reference check by looking beyond words for merit in eye contact and exaggerated pauses. I have grown up. I remind myself to picture the stranger on the corner as a firefighter rather than a criminal and the world brightens with this painting. My young curiosity was insatiable and my questions constantly echoed through my parents ears—“Why does that women wear tennis shoes? I like my sparkling red Dorothy shoes.”, “Where do door handles come from?”, “How many ceiling tiles do restaurants have?”. I didn’t understand the meaning of common knowledge– in my childhood realm nothing was common. Whenever I catch myself now being cynical, I grasp onto a childhood memory as a reminder of how life can be. The smallest droplet of imagination is the most valuable commodity in the world—it is life.
I grew up somewhere between realizing that my parents couldn’t answer every question and that adults everywhere don’t agree on how the world works. When I was six my sister asked me at a family dinner, “where does skin come from?” Despite coming from a conservative Jewish family I instantly responded, “Jesus makes skin! Jesus makes everything!”. My parents both looked at one another shocked and than back at my smiling face. My parents calmly explained to me that our family only believes in the teachings of the Old Testament. Still smiling –blinded to the present ideological difference—I responded, “That’s ok I still think that Jesus makes skin”, which was quickly followed by my younger sister’s, “Me too!”. I was pleased by an imagination at work. My parents saw a clash with the world outside of our home while I imagined a man fixing scrapped knees like the ice cream man who fixes tears with popsicles.
When my parents still towered above me like wise oak trees and still led me through the world by holding my hand they seemed everything except human. In retrospect I was and can still be the one leading them. While they gave me life, I in turn showed them with smiles and ideal perceptions how to embellish their own. I realize now that it’s ok to be led by someone who makes the best homemade strawberry shortcake and whipped cream, but couldn’t begin to explain why fish scales need to sparkle. My parents had grown up long ago–Today, I will pretend that they still know everything.
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