Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The power of imagination

by Rick Blechta

Jackson modeling his new
formal wear line.
We babysit our grandson, the inimitable Jackson, twice a week. He’s all of 26 months but progressing nicely, thank you. Besides being a genuinely nice person (and in his “terrible twos”, I should point out), he is playful and like all young people, has an active imagination. Since our relationship is quite different than that I had with my own two children, and probably also because I’m older, I notice more about him than I remember noticing when our guys were little and time for reflection was short indeed.

We also don’t have a television, never have, as a matter of fact, and I think that has a positive effect on Jax’s imagination. Even when we need some space to get things done when he’s here, we can’t plop him in front of the “idiot box” to provide some none-participatory entertainment that will allow us to work unimpeded. Consequently, when he’s over here, he has to make our own fun, and since I’m more playmate for him than anything else, I let him take the lead and enjoy watching what he comes up with as well as being his partner in crime.

My theory is that we’re all born with good imaginations, but like our muscles, they need to be exercised regularly or they atrophy and don’t function well. Also, we’re born with an innate sense of fun and the absurd. Just growing up can beat all of that out of anyone in a short time. The trick is helping it survive while life is happening to you.

My grandson has a very blessed existence right now: two loving parents, doting grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Everyone who comes in contact with him is charmed by his personality. I’m not saying he gets his own way in everything, but Jax is indulged.

One result is a very vivid imagination. He’s constantly coming up with games to play and obviously making up his own stories — although the plot often isn’t immediately clear to outsiders or even those close to him. Over the past few weeks, he’s come up with two terrific games to play with me. I let my “inner child” loose and play along with him, adding to what he’s creating. I’m the proud discoverer, for instance, that our cars can fly — and do quite elaborate tricks — if we only remember to open their doors. They also crash in the most spectacular ways if some little scamp closes them while they’re up in the air!

Perhaps writers of fiction are able to tap into our inner child more readily than most and that’s where our ideas come from in the way Vicki spoke about in her post yesterday. We’ve gotten older, hopefully matured a bit, but still use our non-atrophied imaginations to see ideas that can be spun into stories, regardless of their length, then populate them with real (grownup) imaginary friends, just as we did when we were little.

God bless the child…


Eileen Goudge said...

Adorable child! Great post. Brings to mind one of my favorite scenes from a movie, when is Edmund Gwenn is demonstrating to the young Natalie Wood the joys of imagining in "Miracle on 34th Street." "There's the British nation and the Indian nation...and the Imagi-nation." Love that!

Rick Blechta said...

My mom used to say something very similar, Eileen. I wonder if she got it from the movie?

And while Jackson does cut a dashing figure (especially in a tux), every child is adorable in his/her own way, aren't they?