A childhood friend lived in a house with a hidden passageway. It opened from the kitchen, curtained and dark. It was lined with saddles, a shadow walk with wooden floors a cowboy could tread with his spurs on. At the end was a bookcase full of mysterious volumes all dusty and dim.
Outside were horses and goats, a barn with antique parts that looked like they came straight from a western musical. The rutted driveway connected with a creek where we donned frilly swimsuits and swam along the cottonwood lined waterway until it grew stagnant. One time a snake swam alongside us. There was nothing like a terrifying adventure to paste in the memory album.
It was a childhood kingdom.
Looking back a few decades later I can see the house in need of a remodel, the add-on that I thought was a secret passageway and the barn full of rusty threats.
This is how I often see my own children’s world and the need to keep them from all danger.
Maybe I’m not supposed to focus on the dangers…I might really be a knight, ready to slay the dragons but not forsaking their adventure, their right to believe the unbelievable.
When I was a young child, fear brought me into my parent’s bedroom during a sleepless night. Every shadow was a villain, every creak of the house shouted danger. Lying in their bed, I could see into their bathroom when that night of all nights produced a scene I still can’t explain. In the mirror above the sink, bright yellow somethings drip-dripped into the sink like fluorescent yellow honey, and then stopped. My parents were lost to snores and dreams and I just stared at that mirror until exhaustion finally gave me rest.
I told them about it the next day. “The sink was probably not turned off all the way”, said one of my parents. “But it was high on the mirror”, I said. I liked my brother’s explanation best. “It was an angel pouring good luck into the sink.”
Our cats, of course, told me nothing, as well as the dog, but in my childish perspective, I knew that animals sensed things we could not. Those invisible things they followed with their eyes, the growls that came ten minutes before someone arrived at our door.
I bet my friends horses knew all kinds of things about the secret passageway and the mysteries within the old barn that seemed to hold such magic.
Maybe if we had faith like a child, animals would talk. How quickly we forget the one that did:
Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said…Numbers 22:28
Or superheroes would really protect us in the face of danger:
So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6
Maybe the imagination of youth is just a taste of what could be if we saw through eyes of faith…eyes of a child. Maybe that secret passageway opened up my imagination, rooted the love of story-telling inside because maturity makes us forget the unbelievable…that sometimes life is full of hidden unbelievables that are ,in reality, truth.
Imagination is not just the mark of childhood, but a gift, the ability to see what is beyond human capability.
Do you have any amazing childhood stories? Tell us in the comments.