When I was a girl, my friends and I used to subject my brother to a game I called “Dress the Turkey.” It was a game I’d made up, and the object was to dress up as absurdly as possible and make someone else laugh. My poor brother learned very quickly that stuffing my blue pompoms down his shirt and singing and twirling around almost always produced a giggle.
At one point in our childhood, we lived in a house that backed about an acre of woods. We’d tear around the woods, passing different landmarks we'd named (as well as the shallow burial site of my first gerbil, Candy). The Monster’s Toilet was the bottomless, water- and muck-filled, heart-shaped hole where two sections of a tree joined. Big Dump Dump was a huge hollow where dead leaves collected. We’d jump in the leaves – the hollow was on a slope – and slide down. Big Dump Dump was near Little Dump Dump and also near Mr. Grouch (a real person, a made-up name), who was so named because he yelled at us when we dropped rocks down the cliff onto his property!
Now that I’m a parent, and now that I realize Mr. Grouch had a very good reason to be grouchy, I wonder how I can influence my sons’ imaginations. I think often imagination occurs best on its own – when you’re alone – when parents aren’t around. (Like writing a book – it seems to develop best away from outside critique, at least initially.) I prompt my boys to use their imaginations by imagining with them, pretending a leaf found on top of a slide is a pizza my son cooked for me in his own kitchen, and by playing with their toy figurines with them. But there’s only so much time I seem to be able to endure playing “little people” or doing “animal talk” before I grow incredibly weary. Perhaps this is as it should be: let the boys’ imaginations take on lives of their own.