If there were a meter to determine Activeness of Imagination and Gullibility levels, my needle would be pointing towards the HIGH end. My mind is constantly going, going, going like a battery-activated brain powered by that pink Energizer Bunny, all BOOM, BOOM, BOOM like a bass in my brain waves.
Side effects shown in this highly active adult brain of mine include excessive worries, over analyzing and—on occasion—an idea or two at 3:14 a.m. But in my younger years, these cranium waves made little Lindsay’s World prettttty interesting.
For example, when it came to movies, I believed everything that happened to the characters would happen to me. Take Hocus Pocus.
I saw Hocus Pocus for the first time when I was 8-years-old. One afternoon in October—after seeing the movie—I was riding my bike down my street. As I approached the neighbor’s house down the street (I could only go so far, Mom’s rules) a jet black cat darted out front of me.
Now, in Hocus Pocus, one of the main characters is a talking black cat named Binx. So when I saw this black cat, my brakes squealed loud like a pig in pain as I brought my bike to a dead stop.
Ohmygosh, I thought. I can’t believe it. I hopped off my bike, not even kicking out the kickstand. I was too excited and eager to meet Thackery Binx, the talking black cat from Hocus Pocus.
The bike fell to the concrete with a clatter as I scrambled towards the ditch where the black cat had run.
“Binx!” I shouted, digging through the grass. “BINX, it’s me! I just saw you in the movie! Hocus Pocus?! Please come here! Let’s talk! ”
But “Binx” was nowhere to be found. I went back to the ditch every day that week, looking for the talking black cat. When my searches remained unfruitful, I used a different tactic.
“Dear Binx,” I wrote in my practice cursive writing, “I promise I won’t tell anyone it’s you. Please come talk to me so we can be friends. I won’t tell. Pinky promise. Love, Lindsay
P.S. Please don’t let the witches come around here
I carefully placed the note in the ditch and waited a few days. Surely Binx would read my note, immediately trust me and talk to me like he talked to those kids in Hocus Pocus. But when I rode my bike to the ditch later that week and discovered my note, wet and crumpled from rain and outdoors, I finally gave up the Search for Binx the Talking Black Cat.
My encouragement from films did not stop there, though. Inspired by Disney’s movie Pochantas, my childhood best friend and I would often run to a large tree we named “Grandmother Willow” after a character in the movie that talked. Our tree didn’t talk. Come to think of it, our tree wasn’t even a willow tree; it was oak. But that’s neither here nor there.
In The Little Princess film, there is a scene where the father tells his daughter Sara that her dolls come to life when she leaves the room.
“But why don’t I see them move?” she asks her father.
“Because, as soon as they hear you coming, they quickly jump back into their places,” he explains. “It’s magic.”
I spent the next month hiding in the hallway outside my bedroom door, trying to get a peek at my dolls and stuffed animals having a party while I was out of the room. I would stand all stealthy, back flat against the wall. Then on the count of three—1,2, 3—I’d quickly dart inside my room, my eyes wild and searching for movement, catching my dolls in the act.
“Darn it,” I’d say with a sigh, walking out of the room every time with my head down. “I guess I’m just not quick enough.” It took me awhile to quit that one.
My eagerness to believe was always intense, but the levels went off the charts when it came to Christmas. One year always sticks out in my mind, though.
In the house I grew up in—a ranch-style at a dead-end street—my room was at the far end with a window facing down the road. This room was also farthest away from the chimney so if, oh I don’t know, a bearded man in a sleigh parked his ride on our roof in order to hop down the chimney, the reindeer would stand right above my sleeping, dancing sugarplum-ed head.
And so, the night before Christmas…no, let me do this right…Twas the night before Christmas, and I had just put on my special flannel Christmas pajamas, the acceptable kind to be seen in. Normally I wore just long ratty old T-Shirts, but I had this random fear for a while that Santa Claus actually would come into my room. I felt the need to look presentable for Intrusive St. Nick, I guess.
Anyway, my mom was tucking me in, my brother was asleep, and my dad was sitting in his chair in the living room. Just as Mom whispered goodnight, I turned my head towards the window and gasped.
There, shining in the glass amongst the darkness, was a big, bright red circle of light.
“Mom!” I shouted, sitting up in bed. “Mom! It’s Rudolph. Mom, it’s Rudolph! MOM, RUDOLPH HAS FALLEN OFF THE ROOF!”
“Oh no!” my mom said with raised eyebrows. “Rudolph is here? Wowww.”
I leaped out of the bed and starting running down the hallway towards the front door. If Rudolph had fallen off the roof, that meant Rudolph was ON the roof, and if Rudolph was on the roof, then SANTA was on the roof. SANTA WAS ON THE ROOF.
Now on the porch, I took one quick breath. “I am about to see Santa,” I thought. “Good thing I’ve been a good girl.”
I leaped from the porch onto the snow-covered front lawn, smiling as I turned my face towards the roof and saw…
“Wait, what?” I stood, breathless. The roof was empty, just as brown and slanted against the star-dotted sky as ever.
“Sis, what are you looking at?” my dad shouted from the porch with Mom standing next to him. They were both smiling.
“Dad!” I shouted from the yard, eyes scanning the sky. “Santa was just here! Santa…Rudolph…he… he fell.” I could barely talk as my brain tried to process the magic I just witnessed. Well, sort of witnessed. Taking a second to determine that yes, the roof was indeed Santa-less, I walked back towards my parents on the porch.
“Come in, honey, it’s freezing,” my mom said. Dad opened the front door and we went inside.
“But Mom, he was RIGHT there,” I said.
“I know,” she said, shutting the door.
“You almost saw ole’ Santa, huh?” my dad asked as he sat back down in his chair.
“What about Rudolph?”
I looked at Dad, my eyes big and serious.
“Dad,” I said in a hushed tone. “Rudolph fell off the roof. And I SAW IT.”
“Rudolph fell off the roof and you saw it?” Dad whispered. “You SAW him?” He glanced over at Mom in the kitchen and winked.
“Yes,” I replied, still whispering. “That’s why I ran out onto the porch. I tried to see Santa and the reindeer before they left but I wasn’t fast enough.”
“Wow,” Dad said. “No wonder you ran outside so fast.”
I thought for a moment. “I hope he’s OK.”
“You hope who’s OK?” Dad asked as Mom sat on the edge of his chair. She put her arm around his shoulder.
“Rudolph,” I said.
“Well, honey, let’s get you back to bed,” Mom said, standing up and taking my hand to lead me towards the bedrooms. “Maybe he’ll leave you a note in the morning.”
“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Maybe.”
Sure enough, the next morning, next to an empty glass of milk and a cookie crumb-covered plate, read a note in swirly writing:
We had a little accident last night. Rudolph fell off the roof. Don’t worry; he’s OK. Thanks for being a good girl, and thanks for the cookies.
You know, I think about these stories—these predicaments—my active imagination has gotten me in (with a little help here and there from my parents) and I could find them a bit heartbreaking. Focus on how I believed SO much and ended up disappointed; I ran SO fast and never saw what I wanted to see. But that’s the funny thing. The feeling of disappointment isn’t the part I remember. In fact, even when the event happened, I don’t recall my child-self feeling deep-down disappointed.
The excitement is what I remember. The hope is what I remember.
The dreams and the magic and the believing. The fun in the writing notes to talking cats and talking to Grandmother Willow-Oak trees and gasping because I just saw freaking Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer in MY WINDOW.
That’s what I remember.
So yes, as an adult, my active, Type-A brain can cause excessive worries and overanalyzing. But my imagination and willingness to believe is part of many joyful moments in my life.
And for those parents out there, I highly suggest the red-bulb in the window trick. I learned years later that Dad got a kick out of it as an adult back then just as much as I did as a child.
I hope you all have a happy Christmas season.