Magical things happen when someone says: “Let’s pretend.” The expectation hangs in the air like droplets of nectar from an enchanted forest. The adult version of this quip is “What if?” We call it “Thinking outside the box.” We’re expert at hiding the real reason our internal child takes the bait. The game takes us out of our constrained conformity and plunges us into the realms of make believe.
What if pigs could fly? Why do salmon remember where to spawn each year and how can we harness that drive? If the Argyroneta aquatica or diving bell spider can live under water, why can’t we?
Children are experts at what ifs and why not’s! They can improvise and make-believe their way out of bad alcoholic parenting, stranger abduction, bondage and hunger. They are not only resilient they are hopeful. There is always a rainbow after every storm. Their hope is eternal.
A looking glass may mirror the ugliness of reality or it can reflect a window that is open wide to the imagination. I spent many hours as a child looking into a mirror that was placed under my nose. In this way, I walked the steep dormer ceiling of my girlhood home creating a make-believe terrain that only I could see.
My own children pumped our player piano and sang at the top of their lungs pretending their way to fame and fortune. Later they discovered that imagining they were playing was much easier than practicing those monotonous scales, memorizing notes, or phrasing properly for a parent or teacher.
“Let’s pretend” gives us a break from the harsh realities of life. We can stand on the fearful brink of decision while imagining several different outcomes or scenarios. By expanding our mind we can contemplate the possibilities that may evolve from any given choice.
Once when our family T.V. had given up the ghost, we decided to hold off getting it fixed or buying another. What was it like “long ago” before people had television to entertain them? We decided to find out.
We read together more. We got through Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Jack London’s Call of the Wild. We engaged in conversation. The children learned how to make jello, bread, and cream puffs. We went to the library more often.
They discovered “the play!” We performed several short ones, each family member taking a part; the older ones helping the younger. And, of course, at Christmas time we performed the “Nativity” reading from Luke 2:1-19. We donned our bathrobes and put towels on our heads. The youngest played baby Jesus.
As an extension to their learning, we took them to plays so they could witness first-hand how professionals made a performance real. In the process, we found something treasured that we had lost: our family. Sadly, once the T.V. was back and their young minds became hypnotized and mesmerized, we lost some of the closeness we once had. But the memories lingered.
Today they still remember when we were all bold enough to say “Let’s pretend,” or to ask “What if?”