Vicarious

When I was a little kid, I believed I could do anything.

I wanted a pony, and I didn’t depend on Santa to bring it. I devised a plan myself. I saved my pennies in a glass jar. I listened to the Swap and Shop program on WMSR radio, and when a farmer advertised his pony for sale, I called him.

I interrogated him over the phone. I decided he had what I wanted, and I asked him to deliver it to my grandparents’ house. And that he did in a old pick-up truck. I paid him the $25 I had saved, and I had my pony. I think I was in second grade.

What I didn’t realize is how much that pony would cost. My dad traded his shotgun for a new saddle, and they paid my grandparent’s neighbor for boarding. I also didn’t figure on old Jerry, my pony’s name, to be a mean son of gun. The first day I got him I sat proudly on his back while he was tethered in my grandparents’ front yard.

My silly uncle teased me by neighing like a horse, and for no good reason at all Jerry bucked me off in front of my entire family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents. I was humiliated. But my grandfather talked me into getting back on again, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

Jerry didn’t stay around too long, but my little pony experience taught me never to stop believing dreams can true.

I miss being a little kid. When we’re little kids, time has no meaning. Life seems to go on forever, and the only thing about time we dreaded was bedtime. But the next day provided another opportunity for adventure.

When you’re a little kid, you can play and pretend and be anything you want to be. When you fall down, scrape your knee, or getting thrown by a horse, there’s usually someone there to pick you up again.

But when we grow up, recess goes away. There’s no time to pretend. No time to play. No time to think our own thoughts. Everyone says, “No you can’t,” and we stop believing we can.

Last night I saw a beautiful sight. My twelve year old was sprawled on my bed reading The Hunger Games. I didn’t force him to read. He asked me to buy the book. I didn’t beg him to read. He sneaked away by himself and took the initiative.

I’m a teacher. I don’t see many young kids, especially boys, who volunteer to read anything.

I get excited when I see young people read because reading gives them a chance to be anything, do anything they want, even if they have to live vicariously through characters in the book.

I wouldn’t discourage any type of reading as long as it wasn’t moral pollution. Comic books, graphic novels, sports magazines, romance novels, etc. I like to read interviews and biographies. Why? Because I can live vicariously through the writers who interviewed the people. In addition to being a novelist in training, I’m a freelance music journalist, and I love writing about artists and their music.

When I read biographies and music magazines, I always imagine myself having a candid one on one chat with the person the story is about.

Some readers like fantasies with dragons, fairies, and all sorts of mythological creatures. Whe readers open the page, they can be on another planet, in another dimension, or in a different era. Reading takes away the “can’t” factor.

I love to read, but I really LOVE to write because I still like to believe all things are possible. I live vicariously through my characters—and so far my books and articles always have a happy ending because I CAN make it happen.

In schools across the state, children of all ages have an “I CAN” mantra. They work from bell to bell, learning one state standard after another. We push, push, push them. And that’s great. We want them to learn.

But I wish they a little more time to pretend again, to play, to imagine, to read for pleasure, to live vicariously through the characters, to believe they CAN do what everyone else says is impossible.

If my dreams do come true, I want to reach the kids who don’t believe they can any more. I want them to take a recess, open their imaginations, dream a dream and believe it CAN come true.

I may have unrealistic expectations, but I still believe in happy endings.