The passing years have taught the wisdom of taking children seriously; not only have they a habit of speaking the untarnished truth about things they find boring or dislike, their capacity for untramelled imagination is far greater than that of adults, the most mundane moments can be imbued with excitement and possibility. American writer and broadcaster Garrison Keillor understands that the capacity for imagination we have in childhood days is unlikely to find expression in our adult years, and certainly unlikely if we are not to be objects of ridicule. Keillor reassures us that we aren’t the only ones to have had such ideas.
Clarence Bunsen, one of the most loveable of Keillor’s Lake Wobegon characters captures a moment that has about it a familiar feel:
“Anything that ever happened to me is happening to other people,” says Clarence. “Somewhere in the world right now, a kid is looking at something and thinking, ‘I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.’ And it’s the same thing that I looked at forty years ago, whatever it was.”
If that is true and our lives are being lived over and over by others, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.
If that is true, somewhere a boy rides next to his father in a car, his eyes level with the top of the dashboard, and pulls back slightly on the window crank which lowers the wing flaps and makes the Ford rise toward the clouds. He tests this principle with his right hand out the window, feeling the lift. He sees that the clouds are following this car; so is the sun. The car is under his power and is the center of the world”.
Are there not countless kids who had such thoughts, or similar ones? The world is a magical place where reality has not yet crushed the power of imagination, where a big old Ford car can become an aircraft soaring through the sky. Anything is possible in the realms of the imagination; the unexpected, the unlikely, the absurd, they are all acceptable. All around the world there are kids whose imaginations can take them on the same flights. Keillor captures those possibilities, those speculations, in a unique way.
And there is reassurance as well in Clarence Bunsen’s reflections. “It’s the same thing I looked at forty years ago”, he says. There is a continuity in childhood experience. The stories of Keillor are a reminder that being old is not the only way of living.