I possessed the True Sword.
In fact … I‘d made it myself. From exotic balsa wood. Imagined in my mind … designed by my brain … and brought to life by my own curiosity.
That’s what a mind is for.
I was nine. I had dreamed myself Caesar’s body-guard. The boy-wonder of the Praetorian Guard. The one with the True Sword.
And that’s not happening in schools today … because there’s no time to imagine. Or wonder. Or dream.
“ … we are educating people out of their creative capacities … we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. So why is this?”
No inspiration to build castles and command armies. No inspiration to slay the beast and scale a castle wall. Or romance a lady. Or conquer a kingdom. Or guard Caesar … with the True Sword.
This is the price we pay for educational modernity. For modernity madness.
Joy and play have been run out of some schools. Replaced by junk-drama … and educational farce. The elementary time is now very serious stuff … with serious consequences. And that’s a serious mistake.
It’s what happens when nameless swamis … with asinine theories of “grit” and “rigor” and “college readiness” … worm their way into childhood and smother creativity and drown imaginations.
And soon enough, children will act out their boredom … and wonder why there’s any excitement at all about this thing called school.
I was proud of that sword. I’d biked miles for that expensive balsa wood. Taught myself to carve … and handle spray-paint. And to trim-out my sword as no other.
It was a magnificent weapon … and Caesar was safe from Cassius and Brutus. Until he wasn’t safe.
I walked it to school … in a used floral box. The room was crowded with all things Roman. Shields and maps and drinking cups. Roman sandals and home-made artifacts. Dioramas of Pompeii and the Coliseum.
And then … then there was the True Sword … boxed tightly … so it would remain a mystery until the unveiling. It called for such drama.
Sister Jean-Matthew was as round as she was tall. Stern. Matter-of-fact. No nonsense. Not big on smiles. But she was a creative sort … goading us to zoom back in time or even switch religions … briefly, of course.
So we settled in … and she made her way up and down the aisles … nodding and making throaty sounds of approval. And then … she was at my desk.
“Are we going to see anything special in that box?”
“Yes, Sister, ” I answered … with absolute certainty.
And I flipped the box-top and lifted the True Sword with both hands.
Jean-Matthew’s eyes grew huge … and she bent forward to squint more closely. It was that stunning. That special.
The black and gold enamel glistened … strands of pearls dangled from the hilt …. and green stones were set in the sides of the handle. Glassy bits of old earrings were push-pinned into the center of the blade. Black and red stones gave the sword-point an extra-special look of power … and grandeur.
The nun gasped … “Oh!” and “Ah!” and “Oh, my!”. Such was the handsomeness of the True Sword.
Then she flew out of the room … and returned with Sister Agnes … the principal. And there they were … holding up my sword … in beautiful, magnificent shock.
I thought I would float away.
An hour later I was in the principal’s office. With my sword. And my mother.
In true trouble … because of my True Sword.
I’d pried apart her best jewelry … pearls and jades and garnets. Onyx and diamonds, too. They were sentimental gifts from my father … surprises he would carry back from long trips. And now … pieces of her jewelry were broken into pieces … and pinned and glued to my wooden sword.
Kids are now stuck in a ratty reality that’s crowded out the essence of childhood … imagination, creativity, and fantasy. If you grow up without these early passions you’ll become a boor. A dreary conversationalist … with a sleepy personality. And it’s likely you’ll lack romance … and be a lousy kisser, too. Those features of life need dreaming before they can become real.
Fantasies need chances to grow. To be encouraged. And even cheered. And my mother cheered me … once the shock wore off.
And I like to think that she tutored those childless nuns about raising a Praetorian-son. And about the importance of a youngster’s imagination. And how easily a child’s heart can crumble.
The True Sword was on exhibit in my bedroom for months … until a new fantasy possessed me … and I became obsessed with the Jewish heroics at Masada. So obsessed that my brother gifted me a white yarmulke … with a green shamrock.
In time, my mother would reclaim her broken jewelry … and some craftsman would work his magic. And my True Sword antics were only occasionally mentioned … with plenty of humor.
Until the end of her days … on some Mother’s Day or on her birthday … I would buy her a gaudy-glitzy piece of joke-jewelry. Some piece that would’ve made my True Sword look just great.
And she would smile. And I would smile back.