Monday, June 6, 2011

Imagine Me and You.........Cars, Tigers, and Jumpropes

Late last week, I went to visit Charlie's new home.  His parents had just signed the contract and were excited to show me their new apartment.  The place was nice and sunny and had plenty of space for all of their things and their dreams.  I walked from room to room, discussing with my daughter what she hoped to do with each space and thinking how fun it will be for them.  Charlie followed along and enjoyed running through a completely empty home.

When we adults sat down on the living room carpet to further discuss their plans, Charlie got a little bored.  A great big empty apartment is only so fun to run through over and over.  He needed some TOYS.  But there was absolutely nothing there.

In a few minutes, however, I noticed him in the kitchen.  He had stolen one of his mother's shoes and was playing happily with it.  First it was a car, "brummmm brummming" along.  Then it was some sort of animal going "tatt, tatt, tatt" as it moved through the jungle.  Whenever Charlie wanted a change of venue, he simply imagined it.  It was delightful to see his little brain capable of vivid and complex imagination.  I was so proud of his creativity and ingenuity.

Imagination doesn't come from having everything provided for you.  It doesn't come from being completely neglected either.  If Charlie had had every toy in the world, or endless videos of zooming cars and jungle animals, he wouldn't have been able to make things up in his head.  It would all have been provided for him outside of himself.  But if he had never seen a car brumming along the road or ever read a book about animals or visited the zoo, he also would not have been able to be creative.  He had to have a foundation on which to build his imaginary world.  There is a pleasant balance between overstimulation and understimulation that brings out the best creativity of the soul.  If there is never a NEED to be creative, creativity won't happen.

I remember moving across the United States when I was a child.  I think my grandpa came to drive the U-haul and we rode with my mother in a car behind it.  My brother and I were VERY bored.  Endless hours of sitting in the car and watching the world go by.  I'm sure we played the ABC game and the VW game and tried to read license plates.  But even those games lose interest after many miles and many hours.

At some point, we stopped for a while at a gas station.  We were thrilled to get out and stretch our legs.  And for some reason, we had a little time on our hands.  My brother and I had recently learned to jump rope.  And someone had shown us how to tie the end of the rope to a doorknob so that one person could turn and the other could jump.  We had also learned some jump rope songs.

The only problem was, we had no jump rope.

But we were so happy to be out of the car for a few minutes.  And our bodies ached for some physical play.  I don't remember who thought of it, but we IMAGINED we had a jump rope.  And we IMAGINED that we tied it to the doorknob of the bathroom on the outside of the gas station.  We pretended to turn the rope, while the other person pretended to jump over it.  We sang the jumprope songs.  We switched places and took turns.  We even pretended to mess up sometimes and trip over the rope. It was wonderful fun!  I don't think either of us would have noticed that we didn't really have a jumprope if it hadn't been for some rude man who needed to use the bathroom.  He came around the side of the gas station with a key and opened the door that we had our "jumprope" tied to.  We must have shown some disappointment at his messing up our game, because I remember him saying some sort of rude comment to us like, "What's the matter with you kids?  Are you crazy or something?"

It was my first clue that grownups completely forget how to use their imaginations.

But we were undaunted.  As soon as he left, we went back to our jumping.  : )

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