Last week we brought out the Halloween decorations. I know I told you we already put up the fall things, but there are MORE things that are just for Halloween, and as it is now October, they get added to the mix. (We really like holidays around here…and decorating for such.)
My younger two took on the task of hanging up all the window clings. You know those weird gel-like things in fun holiday shapes that look really cool on the window…until they get picked apart by small children and reduced to a pile of disgusting mushy bits? Those. We had a bunch of pumpkins and some bats and a few funny monsters. As their play room is all windows, I just let them go to town while I cooked dinner. They were deep into it when I heard what they were saying.
“I think we should put all the pumpkins on this one window, because this is the pumpkin patch and they are a pumpkin family all together.”
“Yeah, and this one monster will be right here, trying to get them.”
“Okay, but he won’t get them because this monster will be in his way.”
“Right. And I’m putting the bats over here. This one sparkly bat it their leader.”
“And sometimes they’ll all fly over the pumpkin patch and visit the pumpkin family.”
Are you smiling as big as I was? Probably not, because I was grinning from ear to ear. These are my favorite parenting moments. The spontaneous flights of fancy. The unplanned stories. My kids weren’t trying to sit down and make up a story about those gooey decorations. It just happened. They saw a group of pumpkins and a narrative popped into their head. They probably didn’t even realize they were telling a story. But there it was, brief and undeveloped, a lovely little nugget of an idea, and then they were on to the next thing.
This is what it’s all about. The little stories we weave around us throughout our day. They aren’t formal, don’t all have their beginning, middle, and end. They aren’t fancy, with well-chosen words or a moral to tie it up. They aren’t even all spoken aloud. They’re just a way of looking at the world. A way that doesn’t just see a pile of pumpkins, it sees a family.
See this tree?
I like to think that there’s a little field mouse out there who is ready to get married, and every night when it’s safe and dark he creeps out and gnaws a bit more, busily working on a new home for his lady love.
This nearby stump will probably be the dance floor for their wedding.
Can’t you just see it? (Not that they would let us watch, of course. Mouse weddings are quite exclusive. No humans allowed.)
The imagination, like a muscle, can be developed. We develop it by ingesting stories, by reading and watching and listening. We develop it by pushing ourselves to tell stories, by forcing out words and pictures even when we feel ridiculous. But even more simply we develop our imagination by taking everything we see around us and playing with it.
Why look at a forest and see only trees when you could see the perfect hideout for a gang of reformed pirates? Why just pull weeds when you could be naming them (something truly horrible) and laughing at the fate that awaits them in the compost pile. Why look at your dog and see only one more thing that has be fed when you can imagine instead what kinds of conversations he dreams of having with your cat?
It’s all about learning to think in stories. To see stories everywhere you go. What do the leaves feel as they drift down from the trees? Who could have dug that odd hole in my garden? What is life like for that woman in line in front of me at the grocery store?
It’s so much fun. Once you get started, you’ll find you can’t stop.
And if you get your kids started? Your eavesdropping is about to get a lot more interesting.