As children our imaginations know no boundaries. We discover the world with young eyes, hearts and brains, and are not constrained by the ‘accepted’ view of the world. As we become older our perceptions change and we no longer see priceless treasures to be collected. Instead we see worthless rubbish. We fail to see the joy and opportunity for jumping in puddles wet, rainy days bring. Instead we see misery and soggy shoes. We don’t allow our imagination to flourish like it once did. Perhaps it is no longer practical to see the endless hours of fun that can be had from a cardboard box. Whatever the reason, it is a crying shame.
As a child, my mum was forever telling me I had a very vivid imagination. I remember having hours of fun playing make believe games and writing stories. I was happy when I was with my friends and I was more than happy with just myself for company. Being on my own meant that I had to rely on my imagination. I had to make up games and worlds and characters and stories. I have friends who tell me that they can’t stand to be on their own. That it drives them mad having no-one to talk to. I don’t understand this. I love my family dearly but I also cherish the time I get to spend by myself. I was an only child until I was eight years old so I guess this has a lot to do with it.
I now watch and listen to my daughters playing their own make-believe games, and telling and writing their own stories. I love to hear them. Sometimes, I just stop what I’m doing, and stand quietly and discretely and observe them playing. It is amazing to hear what their young minds can come up with. I still have a vivid imagination but it’s not the same as my childhood one. How can it be? I’ve grown-up and experienced life. I’m not looking at the world through a pair of new eyes. Mine now need corrective lenses to see properly.
It was four o’clock in the morning and my daughters and I were lying in my bed. My husband wasn’t in, so there were just the three of us. They had both woken at some ridiculous hour and climbed into bed with me. That was an hour or so before and, since then, all they had done was toss and turn, and shuffle and snuffle, and cry and whinge about how they couldn’t get back to sleep. I know I should have sent them back to their own room but it was late at night, or early in the morning depending on how you want to look at it, and I really didn’t have the energy. Just as they had finally settled down and I thought they were going to sleep, one of my daughters said “I’m really special.”
Now this kind of thing isn’t anything new with this particular child. I often find bits of paper around the house on which she has written how wonderful, great, amazing and the best at something she is. But, if you can’t blow your own trumpet at five, when can you? I asked her why she was special (this time). “Because I can see stars and rainbows shooting up there,” she replied, pointing into the semi-darkness. “I’m special too,” said my other daughter. “I can see little bits of light flying about and that’s what makes my dreams.”
I suddenly remembered being their age and also seeing all sorts of shapes and patterns in the dark. Occasionally I still glimpse one. Now, however, instead of watching them move and dance and twirl in the dark; my eyes and brain quickly make them into their daylight recognisable forms. “There’s one,” one of my daughters shouted. “And another, and another. Can you see them Mummy?” I admitted that I couldn’t and blamed it on not wearing my glasses but, deep down, I knew the truth.