As a child, I had an overactive imagination.
Hard to believe, I know. Underneath all this cheekiness, I’m just your average boring male adult with boring dreams and very little creativity. Everything simmers these days. I add a dash of this or that and dip a bit out for the occasional taste test, but then let it sit idly in a sad sort of apathetic fermentation. As a kid, it all roiled and splattered at a full boil, making a general mess of things.
I read fluently before the age of five. Maybe earlier, depending on whom you talk to. And I read everything I could get my sticky little hands on. I did an oral book report on The Amityville Horror in the third grade, complete with a faux blood-stained shirt adorned with a magic marker drawing of the creepy house with the two symmetrically-positioned quarter-circle windows. Today, I would have been sent to the school psychologist I imagine. Back then, influenced by a young, cute, and culturally hip teacher, my obsession with the macabre found plenty of encouragement and I fed it with a steady diet, courtesy of the public library system.
Needless to say, sleep comes hard and late for a child consuming too much of the bizarre.
And the worst place to sleep? The safest place on earth – Grandma’s house. I’ve written a bit before about the good times spent in my Memaw and Papaw’s little trailer in the little town of Grayville. Yes, mornings were gloriously sunny and noisy and busy for a kid with nothing but time and boundless energy on his hands and his belly filled with a breakfast big enough to impress Bob Evans. But at night, with the lights from the ballpark streaming through the blinds, casting shadows on the milk-chocolate-colored paneling lined with old photos and a menagerie of bric-a-brac, I huddled beneath the blankets bathed in a cacophonous din of aural anomalies. The furnace that clicked on in the wintertime became a rotary phone being dialed by a skinny, aged hand. Over and over and over. The large grandfather clock at the foot of my hideaway sofa became the one I imagined nestled in the corner of the Lutzes spookified manse, a faithful observer tolling death, a harbinger of terrifying demise. The snores, snorts and wheezes coming from the back bedroom were grumbles of faceless monsters lurking in the caverns of my fertile mind.
The one anchor of peace that helped dull my mind enough for sleep was my grandma’s bright orange lava lamp. Visual Diphenhydramine. The gentle jostling of the wax gave me something to center my thoughts on and find rest.
So yesterday, I bought my daughter a blue lava lamp. She inherited her daddy’s wild and youthful imagination, minus the macabre. She dwells on The Sisters Grimm and magical rats and animorphing children. Considers how she can help the less fortunate. And fills literally countless journals with secrets and dreams. All from the comfort of her bottom bunk, surrounded by Build-A-Bears and handcrafted blankets.
Last night, she drifted off to sleep earlier than usual. In her own room. And appeared to have a smile on her face . . .