The Magic of Childhood

Where’s your box of treasures, and what’s in it? Come on, everybody has one. My childhood treasure chest was exactly that—a little wooden chest with a wiggly latch from a souvenir shop at Luray Caverns, Virginia. In it I placed all the items most sacred to me, including

  • My “moon marble,” a large glass marble with a winking eye and toothy smile that I found among the post-event debris at the fairground across from my grandmother’s house.
  • An adjustable glow-in-the-dark ring that came out of a Kmart vending machine. The whore who lived down the street from me stole this precious ring from me when I spent the night at her house. I know this because I had put it under my pillow for some (obviously) magical purpose, and in the morning it was gone. She might have sold it along with other pilfered items to fund her abortions.
  • The top off a red, white, and blue rhinestone ring that had been a part of my great-grandmother’s costume jewelry collection. I called this the “Magic Medallion,” because “medallion” sounded cool, even though I had no idea what it meant. It’s kind of like how my dad uses the word “menagerie” with varying degrees of inappropriateness, like to describe my mom’s casserole (sort of appropriate, if you go with the “diverse or miscellaneous group” definition) or to refer to my breast pump (not in any sense appropriate, and downright creepy because it calls to mind a circusy contraption that squirts milk into the open mouths of plastic elephants and tigers while playing “Flight of the Gladiators”).

My best friend had a treasure chest full of talismans, too. The one we held in the highest reverence was a scent crystal from the Glade Spin-Fresh toilet paper holder. We spent hours fawning over our treasures and creating magic potions. I still remember the recipe for our favorite: Take enough crayon shavings from the Crayola 64-pack with built-in sharpener to fill one of the baskets from the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bake Shop. Add two broken pencil points and a drop of water. Stir.

Why do children hold some items as, quite literally, magical? Well into my teen years—surely after knowing my belief in its influence was pure superstition—I took the Magic Medallion to tests and musical performances for good luck. One day it disappeared. When my parents moved out of my childhood house, I searched everywhere, but I never found it. I like to think it’s lodged in the ductwork somewhere, imbuing the house with protective powers. Or else somebody stole it to fund an abortion, who knows.

What’s really magical about childhood is the utter ignorance of a thing’s monetary value. The Magic Medallion was a cheap, mass-produced piece of costume jewelry, but it was shiny and beautiful, and it reminded me of where I came from. I didn’t know anything more valuable, or more powerful, than that.

That simplicity must have been why my grandmother never laughed when we played Restaurant, and I priced a bowl of soup at ten cents and a glass of milk at five dollars. She always just nodded and said, “OK, you write it down on the menu.”

It wouldn’t be prudent, I know, to raise children without instilling in them some sense of what things cost. We wouldn’t survive as adults if we hadn’t developed that sense somewhere along the way. It was that sense that kicked in last night when I saw a photo of the Magic Medallion—ring still attached—on Etsy, and clicked “Add to Cart.”

magic medallion

I know it’s not the ring my Gram actually wore, the one I treasured all through my childhood. I know I’m not going to wear it. I know the blissful naivete of my youth is over. But I bought it anyway, because $18.50 plus shipping seems like a small price to pay to be able pretend, just for a few minutes, that I’m back there again.

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