While I am well aware that not every childhood is full of happy thoughts, there is a lens that all children look through where even the smallest things, like going for ice cream or playing outside on the sidewalk during the summer, bring them a type of magnified joy we so often lose in adulthood. Childhood is where I first decided to craft stories and make illustrations to share with like-minded adventurers.
I was an inveterate daydreamer. I liked the view from up in the clouds. I liked the social aspects of school, playing at recess, talking with friends, but I wasn’t a fan of schoolwork. Scholastic discipline was a monstrously oppressive villain. I loved sports, I loved art; I loved books, especially ones with many detailed and wondrous illustrations. I loved comic books — especially Spider-Man — and I couldn’t wait for Saturday morning cartoons. I was the kid who couldn’t fall asleep Christmas Eve, trying to listen for Santa’s sleigh to land on the roof of my house. The world of the imagination made perfect sense to me as a kid. It wasn’t escapism; it was simply a place forgotten by most adults.
Childhood is also other events, like walking home from school alone where so many of the people who pass by looked like giants, facing playground bullies, taking a punch, throwing a punch, being called names, being excluded, becoming frightened by the tiniest things and feeling alone. We are innocent vessels, everything new is a first; the ink of each episode is like a tattoo on our psyche that never dulls in colour.
Yet, when I look back on all of my experiences I smile. The good and the bad are part of my story. Childhood is the place I first learned to believe in dragons, or to travel to the planet Mongo on a rocket ship with Flash Gordon. It’s where I learned that not everyone is a nice person, eating too much candy really does give you cavities and spinach does not taste as good as Popeye makes it out to be.
I’m now fifty-five years of age. When I sit at the keyboard writing a story, or at my drawing table making art, a phantom freckled face seven-year-old version of myself, with a full head of wavy light-brown hair, is sitting on my lap, reminding me of details my adult mind may have forgotten. He lets me know what’s fun, what’s boring and what’s magical about the work I do. He never fails to add a scar or a finger-ring or even purple shoelaces to different characters to make them that much more interesting. He often takes my hand and leads me to parts of the ether only children know to travel. And this journey he leads me on makes me a better father, a better writer and a better artist.
Kaja Blackley is the author of Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel now on sale at: maggiemaccormack.com