My oldest son has told stories almost since he could talk. He is the child who loves most to live in the realm of the imaginary where anything is possible. And honestly? I prefer that realm to the one I spend my days in, where I am not challenged to document everything for the inevitable challenge, to defend my statements with incontrovertible evidence.
In Wyatt's world, it's nothing for a zebra to carry on a conversation with an armless, legless cucumber, all while racing Noah's ark down the hall. It is perfectly logical to step outside and expect a monster trap to have caught a real, live monster while we slept.
The dead crawfish, the caterpillar on its last leg, the June beetle tickling his hand out of season, the bucket of Little People animals--all is worthy of his time to explore, dissect, include in his elaborate spinning.
Where I see yes and no, black and white, right and wrong, he sees a myriad of possibilities lodged in the phrase "but what if..." Most of the time, I play along and learn to live in the thin places with him, where the veil separating the real from the imaginary is torn to reveal a coexistence of the seen and unseen.
One study showed that people given a problem to solve were more apt to find a creative resolution if they were presented to a set of objects with the words "This could be a straw" versus "This is a straw." I've taken that lesson to heart as I weave right alongside him, ever careful to encourage this imagination even as I stand firm on what is true and what is a lie.
We've told stories together so much that he now expects them. Through five years of sitting together in doctors' offices, I have entertained him not with my cell phone or any other handheld game. Instead, we have either colored on the thin exam table paper, read books, sang, or simply told stories.
His favorites have always been those tales about him as a baby, what we call the "Once upon a time, Wyatt...." stories. With three children now requesting these type tales, there is nary a silent moment.
Now, though, Wyatt has taken to writing down his stories.They aren't anything brilliant, nothing like the lengthy yarns that roll effortlessly through the air. Instead, these require mommy to slowly sound out words with him so he can phonetically spell them. And sometimes, they use a picture when he thinks the word will take too long to spell (like "lizard").
I look around town, and all but one of the major bookstores are gone. And it makes me wonder about the future of the imagination in our uber-electronic, high-stakes-testing / numbers-crunching-driven culture.
Today's article about Barnes and Noble's potential demise says, "bookstores are critical to modern bookselling. Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered" (Nazaryan).
It's this lack of potential for discovery that bothers me most, brings to my mind images of a future with no regard for imagination and art. And what then? When we leave those thin places and become mired solely in the real, the understood, the logical? What do we lose?
Just last week, husband took three children to family night at Chick-Fil-A while this mommy taught the English language to young and older sponges.
As always, there was a life-sized cow romping around the restaurant, waving, bobbing, shaking hands, and interacting with children as well as a mute person can inside a bulky cow suit.
"Y'know, daddy," he said in a covert whisper, "That's a person in a cow costume." He paused, then continued, "...or it may just be a cow."
When anything is possible, anything just might be possible.
Images: Wyatt's first two stories, one about his best friend daddy and another about going up and selling a lizard for 59 dollars (big bucks).