At the sight of children squealing with glee and chasing each other around a jungle gym, most adults will sigh wistfully and think, "Oh, to be young again!"

The exception, of course, are residents of Howard and West halls?located across from Longfellow elementary?who are more likely to say, "QUIET THE $%#@ DOWN! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TIME IT IS!?"

The answer to this question is usually "noon." The answer to the broader question of why we idealize childhood is less concrete.

The average adult's reaction acknowledges the loss of innocence. It is by a seemingly unjust paradox that we are unable to recognize our own blissful ignorance and childish purity except in retrospect, once it has been replaced by the painful awareness and jaded skepticism of adulthood?sort of like how you never truly appreciate how happy you are at a given moment until a later, more melancholy moment.

Thus, watching children frolicking in blithe contentment is like leafing through old photographs. You are always jealous of your photographed self, because he is always smiling. You will try ceaselessly to become him, for he is younger, happier, and unchanging. This very concept has inspired notable human achievements such as "The Great Gatsby" and Botox(r).

When we were kids, our imaginations were not bound by empirical knowledge. Every morning from ages four (when I first saw the movie "Peter Pan") through nine (when my third grade science teacher explained the heartbreaking concept of "gravity"), I would wake up hoping I might be able to fly that day. When these experiments would end in scraped knees, bruised arms, and, in one case, five stitches over my left eye, I would write it off as an error in my technique and hit the Disney aisle of my local video store for further instruction.

Even after I had conceded the basic laws of physics, magic was still a very real possibility. I once bought a pack of baseball cards that was part of a set that included a number of collector's edition Ted Williams cards. Most of these cards were worthless, but there was a hitch: Something like one in 10 were signed by the Splendid Splinter himself. Those were worth a lot.

So you can imagine my excitement when I got one of the Teds in the pack I bought. You can also imagine my dejection when I discovered that it was not one of the rare signed ones.

I spent the afternoon on my couch attempting to coax a miracle. I would put the Williams card facedown on one end of the couch, and then curl up and "sleep" on the other end. By "sleep," I mean that I would lie with my eyes squeezed shut, hoping that when I "awoke" the card would have magically acquired a genuine Ted Williams signature. I would check it every 20 minutes or so by crawling cautiously to the other end of the couch, dramatically gripping the card by its two sides, taking a deep breath, and flipping it over. When I would find it yet unsigned, I would patiently repeat this process.

After a long, disillusioning afternoon, I gave up, threw away the card, and vowed to destroy every VHS copy of "Pinocchio" in circulation.

The later years of my childhood?and if we're being honest, the early years of my adolescence?were spent clinging to the magic of my youth.

One time, I was riding in the car with my friend Mark and his mom. Mark had just lost a tooth, and his mom said, "I'll bet the Tooth Fairy is going to come tonight and give you a quarter!" to which Mark replied, "Shut up, Mom, my teeth are in a box in your bathroom cupboard."

I sat in a stunned state of denial in the backseat. Incidentally, I needed to have seven baby teeth pulled when they refused to fall out by themselves.

In fourth grade, my friend Jack's homeroom teacher?his teacher?let slip the fact that there is no Santa Claus. He told me right away, of course. I dismissed it as hearsay at first, pointing out that his homeroom teacher had no kids and therefore did not know what she was talking about.

The notion of a teacher depriving kids of their idealistic belief in magic depresses me to this day. That's why I was heartened to come across this featured news item on

Jeffrey Meldrum, a tenured anatomy professor at Idaho State University with a Ph.D. in anatomical sciences, has devoted the better part of his professorial career to proving the existence of Bigfoot. When he is not teaching, Meldrum analyzes plaster casts of "Bigfoot footprints," as well as what he claims are hair and stool samples of the Sasquatch. He even convinced the university to hold a "Bigfoot Symposium." No joke.

Ridiculed by his colleagues, Meldrum clings to his passion, no matter how fantastic it may seem, and no matter how many of his highfalutin peers call for him to resign.

I have an old Ted William collector's edition card from 1993 I'd like this man to have a look at.