When I was a child, we lived on some acreage here in the high desert. There were chico bushes, sand and lots of places to play. I used to run through the field pretending to be a four wheeler (we didn’t have one and who needed one when you had feet?) making car noises and “spinning out.” It was really fun back then when Imagination and I walked hand in hand. We would get out so much energy there. We were alone, Imagination and I or with my siblings and we were just enjoying being kids.
Then a girl from out of the valley who I rarely saw came to visit. With her came Cool. We went out to the field to play and of course we were Indians making teepees and four wheelers doing donuts and rabbits jumping over bushes. But none of that was for Cool. Every game we started wasn’t hip. All we got from Cool and the girl was raised eyebrows and crossed arms. Soon it was clear that Imagination was not awesome in the eyes of the world (of course she represented the whole world to us). Suddenly we were embarrassed of our make believe. Reality was the only thing that was ever going to measure up to the popular crowd.
That was the end. Imagination and I never played make believe again. Like a loser at lunch, I avoided Imagination because I never knew who would see me with her and think I was a loser too. I lost that whole part of me at age 8 when some girl who I never saw again made me feel ashamed of my innocence and creativity. It was gone. I never did get it back.
I miss Imagination now. I’m all grown up and I wish I had never quit her but Imagination isn’t like a bike. You can’t just hop back on. When you leave her, she leaves you and making up is hard to do.
Now I have children and I love watching them enjoy every second of that childhood and I want to shield them from Cool. Why? Why do I never want them to be shamed like that? Do I want them to be weird in the eyes of the world? YES!
It’s those that never let Cool shame them out of climbing trees and playing with action figures who make greatness in the land of creativity. These are the Peter Jackson’s who make that movie because it can be done even if no one believes it. These are the Dustin Hoffman’s of the world who create that character because it should exist for someone to see. These are the Mariah Carey’s who hit that note just because they can and it should be done. These are the Wright Brothers who fly but are not birds. They are Houdini who do that trick because they didn’t know anyone couldn’t do it. Those who block out Cool make Imagination AWESOME. They make their own cool. The Bobby McFerrin’s ignore people who believe that they look geeky while practicing their craft, when weird noises come out of their mouths and then all of a sudden, because they didn’t listen to anyone, they are being listened to. These are the members of STOMP who believed in the human race enough to ignore Cool when they were playing with trash can lids and made a show that highlighted rhythm and music in a way that was unique.
This is what I want to shield the girls from. I want to protect them from someone believing that their dancing is awkward or their make believe stories and conversations are strange. I want to block their ears from someone saying, “No one does that because no one can.” I want them to believe everything is is possible and Imagination is their friend who should not be shunned. Who knows what Imagination will grow into? Who knows what they might show the world after all that play, all that beautiful freedom they experience now?
Sometimes I still get glimpses of my friend Imagination in of the corner of my mind. She peaks around a wall of mistrust of the world sometimes and beckons me back to a place of fun, freedom, where there are no expectations, where anything is possible. I chase her across my mind but she is always gone when I get there and I slump back to my mundane life. Sometimes I see her walking with someone else and I just want to join them. She is a friend who doesn’t need you for anything. You only need her. She is friends with my girls now. Maybe Abby or Cate will lead her back to play sometime and we can get reacquainted. I have a novel I need to write and her help would be much appreciated.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” — Albert Einstein