I recently noticed something exciting: my son has discovered his imagination.
Callum just turned two, and recently he’s started showing signs of having a wild imagination. He opens his books to pictures of food and pretends to chomp down, usually expressing an enthusiastic “MMMMMM!” or a disgusted “bleccch!” He loves to feed us these imaginary food items and watch us pretend to retch or rub our bellies in enjoyment. He’s been drawing a lot lately, too. As I watch his clumsy toddler hands span across the page with his multi-hued crayons, I’m fairly certain he isn’t just drawing scribbles ““ in his mind, he’s drawing castles and dogs and Steve from Blue’s Clues.
Watching him, I remember my own childhood and the infinitely large imagination I had. It makes me nostalgic, to think about the huge, rich world I lived in, most of it of my own creation. It was nothing to me to be left to my own devices, carefully making culinary masterpieces with nothing but some sandy dirt and a bucket (I made the best dirt cake in three counties). When I rode my bike, I pretended I was a police chief, chasing robbers and bagsnatchers, with my little yellow tabby kitten, Kit-Kat, riding shotgun in the handlebar basket, as my deputy.
I had an imaginary friend, but not your typical shadow-of-myself imaginary friend that some kids have. No, my imaginary friend was not a little blonde girl with pigtails and bows, but rather a Native American Princess. Princess Moonbeam was her name, and when asked where I came up with her name, I was perplexed. I didn’t come up with anything. That was just her name. Princess Moonbeam lived outside in the tallest oak tree in my grandparents’ yard. Her mother was a Native American princess who liked to wear monkey grass woven in her hair. When my grandfather talked about the Creek Indian blood coursing through our veins, I always thought of Princess Moonbeam and her mother, and imagined we were cousins.
As a child, I lived in a world of pretend. I knew I wanted to be a writer from the age of 8, when I began to write “novels” in my spare time; elaborate stories about girls not so different from myself, who had incredible adventures all over the world. Much of my creativity was compounded by my synesthesia, with incredible worlds of color and sound always being open to me and ready for my interpretation. I was an introverted, thoughtful child, living very much in my own head, taking creativity to its limit. I sewed clothes for my Barbies, designed and drew my own paper dolls, melted my crayons to make new colors, and would spend literal hours outside, jumping up and down on my trampoline or playing basketball, making up stories and poems all the while.
It brings me incredible amounts of joy to see that creativity and imagination flourishing in my son. I love to see children play ““ really play, welcoming the world of pretend and imagination where everything IS possible and there are no limits. Where your imaginary friends can be whoever you want them to be, where you make up incredible stories and adventures, draw artistic masterpieces and can be absolutely anything in the world you dream up. It is a magical thing, to be imaginative, where you don’t need anything to entertain you but your own mind, before the cynicism and reality of adulthood sets in and you stop believing in your own mystery.
I plan to make the most of this special opportunity and join him. I’ll revisit my own sense of wonder and remember what it’s like to play pretend, and live a life fueled by imagination and possibility.