Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Not McDreamy, simply dreaming

I was a dreamy kid--you know, the kind with her head "in the clouds" or stuck in a book; one could say I had an overactive imagination. I prefer to say that I had (and still have) a very active and robust imagination. I was never easily frightened by letting my imagination get out of hand. Simply put, I have narratives going in my head daily. Motherhood, marriage, and job have put a slight damper on my "stories" but not canceled them all together. I am only recently realizing that most people don't do this--they don't cope by creating stories in their heads; they don't tell themselves a dream as they are falling asleep. At least they don't do it much past childhood.

Like mother, like sons

I don't know why I was surprised to find that my boys also have active and robust imaginations. For my oldest, it has always been about the story. In some of my less sane moments, I would worry that he was schizophrenic when he couldn't or wouldn't differentiate between the story in his head and reality. (He's my first, I get to be a little over-the-top--it's that active and robust imagination thing.) I was actually a little sad the other day when I asked him what he was doing as he carried the lollipop jar out of the kitchen. "Oh, I'm giving F a haircut." A haircut? Three days before preschool pictures? Three days after visiting the barber? My heart misses a beat or three. "With scissors?" I ask tentatively. "No." (silly Momma) "Just pretend. I just mess up his hair and then he gets a lollipop." Sigh. I realize that this is the first time I've been conscious of the word "pretend" coming from my first-born.

The youngest is a little more grounded, more concrete in his thinking. When I asked if his Curious George doll liked strawberries, he looked at me with all the disdain of a 13 year-old and said, "His mouth doesn't open. He can't eat." Still, riding in the car one day, his older brother was waxing on and on about all of us riding in his plane. My little one chimes in, "Momma, animals in trouble!" I responded that we should get our helmets and big boy is incredulous--we are clearly in his vehicle. Aren't we? I explain that he can have his story and his brother can have his own, too. "Two boys, two imaginations," I explain calmly, wondering if other mothers have to go through this before the civilized hour of 9 a.m. and that second cup of coffee. Little boy chants, "Two boys, two imaginations," while big boy is on the verge of tears. Can't we see what he sees so clearly with his mind's eye?

The best babysitter's here

My boys have had maybe 2 other sitters in addition to their grandparents. Growing up, my brothers and I had a succession of teen-age sitters, usually the daughters of my mother's co-workers or students hand-picked from my father's classes at the high school. The absolute best was Mary Anne. She had long Marcia Brady hair, parted down the middle, that she would let me brush. She wore t-shirts with Holly Hobbie prints and quotes. And she would play pretend with me. I remember one summer when I was 9 or so when she stayed with us on those rare occasions when my father's summer school schedule overlapped with my mother's work schedule. I was quite enamored of stories of time travel and ghostly messengers. She patiently and willingly played along, letting me dictate the way the story should go and acting out the parts I required.

My husband gets frustrated when the boys tell him what to say during their pretend games, but I understand--it makes it more real to hear someone else speak the words aloud. Juggling my roles as mother, wife, and librarian, I am more than happy to be led. While speaking the lines they feed me, I silently compose grocery lists, plan my agenda for the day, contemplate what needs to be done when I get to work. And so I am Prince Zuko, or the Wicked Queen; Sancho or a bandit; Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook. I stay in character, recite my lines and wonder at the influences on my children. I remember the winter and spring I wore a hand-me-down brown duffel coat. I thought I was the female equivalent of Hawkeye Pierce. While the neighborhood boys played war, my best friend and I were the medics, rushing to save the wounded, exposing ourselves to mortal danger in order to rescue those brave, foolish boys. Without much effort, I can summon the scratchiness of the coat, the feeling of frozen grass and mud beneath my feet as I ran in the frigid spring air of upstate New York, through backyards that were battlefields, taking cover under hedges, sneaking up over the sides of porches that were really MASH units. I bossed those boys who usually bossed me--I was the doctor, their savior, and besides, I outranked them.

A madman, a talking cat, and some salt

Lately, I have been enjoying the serialized drama (podplay?) Clara 73 put together by Sage Tyrtle and Tim Ralphs and podcast on Quirky Nomads. It has captured my imagination and I find myself returning to older podcasts to listen again, reliving the emotion in a particular moment, getting caught up in the mystery all over again. It's not particularly family-friendly, more a treat or storytime for mommas and daddies. It's beautifully done, transporting one to a skillfully created world. Perfect for listening to in the car or whilst knitting or even cleaning house. That last one is next on my agenda. More good books for kids next time.

1 comment:

Ros said...

Great post! I loved reading all that. I loved Hawkeye too! But we never played MASH. My bro & I and a couple friends would go out in the snow & play Valley Forge. We also had a whole store/services economy thing going in our back yards, using shotgun shells we'd find in the woods as currency.
I do stories in my head all the time, but they're not random fiction; they're about how I'd handle "What if" situations in my own life. When I was in high school, I had a letter series going. I created a family of 5 sisters, and I wrote page after page of letters between the sisters. Princesses, with plotting and intrigue. Looking back, it was kind of like a soap opera by letter.