By Sean Pearson
As a young child, I always seemed to have a relatively active imagination. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that this was either the product of too many Gilligan’s Island reruns, or a pathetically limited experience of school field trips during my formative years. And while the often harrowing, always hilarious adventures following the demise of the S.S. Minnow were certainly entertaining and oddly educational, I’m thinking it was the fourth-grade field trips to the sewage treatment facility that made for such an active imagination.
Students today board busses, planes and boats to transport them to all the wonderful and engaging places we could only make up in our heads in the old days. Who needs imagination when you’re face to face with a sea otter?
In the first grade, our class took a field trip to the local cemetery. There, given we remained in a straight line and didn’t engage in any “horseplay,” we each had the opportunity to peer into the open corner of a concrete grave that had somehow been mysteriously damaged and breached. Now, this was southern Louisiana, folks. They didn’t actually bury people underground because the water table was too high. And we certainly couldn’t have bodies floating around now, could we?
Whether or not there was actually anything inside this tomb of terror was totally irrelevant. By lunchtime, we had all agreed over our Chicken Cordon Bleu-type lunch-food item that we had not only spotted the rotting arm of a corpse within the damp recesses of the death chamber, some of us had actually heard moans escaping from the darkness.
By the third grade, I was introduced to bomb threats – no figment of my imagination there. While my parents had previously done a pretty incredible job of shielding me from racial tensions of the south in 1973, there was no going back to the comforts of decaying cadavers in cute little crypts now. The sight of worried teachers wringing their hands and trying to comfort the little ones was all my enterprising young mind needed.
Like a gleaming ray of sunshine reflecting off the monkey bars, my calling in life became quite clear; I would be a hero.
I spent the next three days trying to figure out exactly what a hero does. And when I discovered that nothing dangerous, perilous or remotely alarming would ever happen at my school again, I quickly switched over to a rich fantasy life of heroism.
In my self-contained world of all things Sean, I saved every teacher, student and lab animal in the school several times over. In the process, I inevitably had to fight off mobs of knife-wielding escaped convicts, gun-toting hostage-takers and highly trained martial arts experts. It wasn’t easy, mind you. I suffered elaborate injuries as I rescued my class. And as I quietly and stoically bled from my various wounds, fashioning splints for my broken limbs from wooden rulers, my schoolmates and teachers would gather around to profusely thank me for saving them from the certain clutches of death.
Perhaps my illusions were a bit on the grandiose side.
After a few years, I became tired of the same old scenario. By sixth grade, I was ready to branch out into other forms of heroism and chivalry. School was nothing more than a bunch of SRA reading cards and multiplication memorization. So, imagine my surprise when my parents informed me I would be joining Ms. Parker’s class for the gifted and talented. Apparently, I scored some impressive numbers on one of those standardized tests. And I just didn’t have the heart to tell my folks I filled in the circles on the answer sheets in a pattern of clouds and puppies. Some things are better left unsaid.
Ms. Parker’s class consisted of new problem-solving methods, games and activities meant to stimulate young minds. There was very little structure, and we were relatively free to do what we wanted as we explored the many offerings in the classroom. Still, had anyone known the disturbing levels of my imagination, perhaps they would not have suggested a required reading of Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.”
Do you hear lions?
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