A COVID revisiting of that magical world we nurture in childrens imaginations: Paul Keane – cleveland.com

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vermont -- The isolation of the 2020-2021 COVID-19 lockdown has given me too much time to think and Ive gone back into my early childhood, rediscovering all those little things that only 5- and 10-year-olds think are important.

My first flashback happened recently, when I was fingering my tired eyes and remembered, oops, no fingers in a pandemic -- use a tissue.

I suddenly thought of Mr. Sandman. Does anyone remember that 1954 song by the Chordettes, which began, Mr. Sandman, send me a dream?

When I scrunched my tiny fists and rubbed my eyes as a toddler in the morning or night, my mother would explain that the Sandman would put me to sleep and leave his little sandy footprints on my eyelids, which I needed to wipe away when I woke up each day.

Childhood had so many of these magical realities: the Tooth Fairy, which would put a quarter under my pillow while I slept if I put my baby tooth under the pillow; the Easter Bunny, who brought chocolate and left colored eggs hidden for me to find (even for some kids who didnt celebrate Easter); the four-leaf clover, which I could search for in any grassy place which would bring me luck; dust bunnies which lived under the bed and multiplied all the time; and Cupid with his arrow who came on Feb. 14 to remind me to say to others, Be mine.

Paul Keane in his COVID attire.

Other childhood images werent entirely fun.

Bedbugs might be living in your bed (Sleep tight and dont let the bedbugs bite). And you might need to watch out for a magical force called Luck.

There was a lucky rabbits foot and there were seven years of bad luck if you broke a mirror. Or what about luck and the number 13?

During the 1950s, entire hotels would skip floor 13 and go from 12 to 14 in their numbering system because people refused to accept a room on a floor called the 13th.

Of course, floor 14 was still the 13th floor, even though it was called the 14th floor. But Luck didnt recognize it as 13 without the actual number 13 attached to it.

Ive never seen the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, but I have seen dust bunnies (they still live under my bed in 2021) and I have found at least one four-leaf clover.

But thankfully, Ive never seen a bed bug and Ive never felt a bedbug bite. That isnt to say that they live only in the magical imagination of childhood life.

They are very real.

In the famous London Diary of Samuel Pepys 1660-1669, Pepys tells of waking in the morning, having been troubled by bedbugs all night. And Civil War soldiers in America (1861-1865) recounted spreading a blanket in front of their tent on the ground and putting lice from different tents on the blanket in a kind of lice-race to see which louse from which tent would win by crossing the finish line first.

But back to my pandemic isolation experience and the fun images of my third childhood.

What all this unstructured COVID time to think has done for me in 2020-2021 is remind me of the kindness and charm of adults who created a television-before-television world of the imagination, full of magical stories which would inhabit kids noggins to stave off the great enemies of childhood: monotony and dreariness -- foes which the pandemic has brought back to families everywhere.

So, thank you to all those creative adults who filled my childhood with a priceless lesson: The imagination can make you free. It has come in handy this pandemic year.

Paul Keane, who attended graduate school at Kent State University, is a retired Vermont English teacher.

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