December 15, 2003

The Rodent Mire of Childhood

I’m reading Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. It is a brilliant and frightening book about a family of circus freaks. One of my favorite quotes is about the grief and darkness of childhood:

It is, I suppose, the common grief of children at having to protect their parents from reality. It is bitter for the young to see what awful innocence adults grow into…
...How deep and sticky is the darkness of childhood, how rigid the blades of infant evil, which is unadulterated, unrestrained by the convenient cushions of age and its civilized anesthesia. That terrible vulnerability that must be sheltered from the rodent mire of childhood (p.105-106).

This was what I wanted to talk about in reference to the Scientology play, but with the awfulness of the day I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write anything that wasn’t obvious. It was fitting that the play was a spoof on a children’s Christmas pageant, because Scientology is all about the belief in the purity of childhood happiness and that to attain such happiness one must erase all memory of the sour moments that tainted it.

It was interesting seeing children talk about these things. It was apparent that they knew that the play was funny and sarcastic and they got a kick out of it. Hearing children proclaim that childhood is the one time that people are truly happy drives home the absurdity of the statement, because everyone does this. Everyone looks back at childhood as a glorious and simple time.

I do have the distinct memory of wanting to indulge my parent’s belief in my innocence and I was a tremendously fearful that they might discover that I knew more than I let on.

I remember when I was 7 years old eating dinner with my mother and my aunt; half listening to them talk about another aunt and uncle. “They want to have children,” my mother said.
“But they sleep in separate beds!” I blurted out. My mother and my aunt stared at me in disbelief. “You got that from your dad, didn’t you?” My mother asked. I nodded yes even though it was a lie.

When we got home I sat in the darkened living room watching through the kitchen doorway as my mom and my aunt interrogate my father. He denied saying anything, but they refused to believe him. I felt terribly guilty and vowed to one day apologize to him about the whole matter, but I knew I’d have to wait until he was on his death bed because it would be far too humiliating if he wasn’t on the verge of dying. That vision of sitting by his bed and confessing everything was the only thought that gave me comfort.

Posted by on December 15, 2003 3:23 PM