Logan loves to ride his bike. The other night he rode in figure-eights around our driveway and through our front acre. He slowly meandered around lost in an imaginary world. I braved the cold (I’m a warm weather girl, anything below 60 is cold for me!) long enough to hear him chattering to himself about a goblin and some sort of soccer tournament. His speech was animated and his eyes were on fire. I recognized that look. I spent many hours of my childhood in a similar state.
Legend had it, at my childhood summer camp, that an evil spirit once lurked in the woods. She was jealous and hungry to control her natural surroundings. A brother and sister pair lived in the same woods. The spirit grew spiteful at the children for their incessant giggling and frolicking through the woods. She cast a powerful spell on the boy, named Ole (pronounced “O-lee”), shrinking him to the size of a baby bird. But, as we all know, every evil act has an unforeseen positive power. Ole’s sister was simultaneously changed into a princess fairy with the powers to protect the woods and all who respectfully inhabit it. The woodland creatures clothed Ole in leaves and an acorn hat and reunited him with his equally changed sister. Upon their reunification, Ole and the Princess Fairy laughed and celebrated. The evil spirit was outdone and banished from Camp Wakahni for ever!
Each summer, the counselors would bring the children to a large sandstone rock that was beside the noisiest part of the creek to leave letters for Little Ole. The children would grind sandstone (aka magic fairy dust) to sprinkle over “Little Ole’s Rock.” Within a day, each letter would be replaced with a reply written by Little Ole himself. As Little Ole was raised in the woods and never had the opportunity to go to school, his writing was backwards. The campers would excitedly race up the trail to the shower house to read their letters in the mirrors.
On the last night of camp after every camper went to bed, something magical happened deep in the woods. Somehow the counselors would learn that Princess Fairy was visiting. The campers would be awakened, told to put on their shoes, and paraded down a dark and curvy trail. There the groggy campers would see a beautiful, green, glowing Princess Fairy. She would remind the campers to not litter and to take care of the environment before disappearing into the darkness. The excited children would return to their bunks to discover that Little Ole had left candy surprises on every pillow.
I held onto this legend long after the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. I wanted the magic to be real.
I wanted to live in a world with endless possibilities.
I am fortunate to have a career that allows me to accompany kids on their daydreams. I spend time each day acting out social scenarios, telling “worry bullies” to scram, rewriting traumatic events into empowering/safe moments, and more. I am honored to be invited and allowed to be even a small part of these healing journeys. I value imagination as a healing balm.
Jack is beginning to pretend. He is at the early stages where he repeats one action each time, never varying from the script. The horse goes in the silo and the door closes. Jack says “oh no!” and opens the door to find the horse still there. “Hello!” (repeat)
I loathe that as we grow up we misplace our ability to fantasize and imagine. Suddenly my daydreams changed into “to do” lists and budgeting scenarios. Sure, I play with Logan and Jack but these moments are focused on their worldviews and not mine. I love to get lost in a good book and tune out real world stressors. There have been times in which I’ve carried stories beyond the pages and into daydreams, most recently volcanoes and zombies (as detailed in an earlier blog post) but I admit that I haven’t allowed myself time to free associate and allow my mind to wander into a different realm.
Life is stressful at the moment. We often over commit ourselves, I have an emotionally taxing career, my boys are high energy, there is a toilet on my front porch, and most importantly, my dad has been ill. My body is tired and my mind is spent. I dream about heart rates and illness. I worry about my mom and grandmother. I practice telling Logan about my dad’s status in various ways. I force myself to pretend everything is normal while the boys are awake and “try” to restrain myself from becoming a crazed lunatic when Trey asks “What’s wrong?” I don’t know how to find balance. I want to either foam at the mouth while running around screaming “EVERYTHING IS WRONG! EVERYTHING IS WRONG!” or go into complete ostrich-mode and bury my head in the sand until the crisis passes. Neither is an option.
After I left Dad’s hospital room last night, I sat in my car for a few minutes and thought about camp. I don’t know what prompted the memories. I closed my eyes and thought about sitting at a picnic table outside the cabins while on “night duty” as a camp counselor. I listened to the crackling of the fire and felt completely at peace. I pictured my camp friends and became lost in an imaginary discussion about campers. I sat in my car/camp fantasy for 15 minutes before turning the car on and heading home. My dad is still sick and the stressors are all still present but I remembered how cleansing it is to lost myself. Life is going to continue to be stressful but I’m going to practice pretending and hopefully that will get me through to the next stage or personal epiphany. I’m not necessarily looking for a “happily ever after” but am on the search for new chapters.