The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators. Stories of boys, teenagers actually, solving mystery after mystery, with lots of action and adventure along the way, plus encountering and then explaining strange phenomena. I read what seemed like hundreds of these books, from the day of first getting my library card around 3rd grade until early adolescence. I never actually counted the number, though. I just kept on reading and reading.
And I wrote my own mystery stories and illustrated them as well. I even sent one of the detective stories I wrote in 6th grade to a publisher and never hear a word either way. In retrospect, they were cathartic creative explorations that allowed me to escape a sometimes harsh environment of domestic violence and sexual abuse. My imagination gave me an outlet to create fantastical worlds with words and images, sometimes just designing inventions I longed to make real, made up or based on something that inspired me, yet never fully realizing them in real life. Like the time I desperately tried to figure out had to turn my little red wagon into Herbie the Love Bug.
Then there was my long-running obsession with fantasy, like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, two of my favorite series. In fact, in junior high I actually learned to write in Dwarvish runes. Really, I did. And I had a whole bunch of amazing nerdy friends that did, too. And Elvish and more. Also, for a short while early in college I played Dungeons and Dragons and my character was a bad-ass Dwarf who wielded a deadly battle-ax.
That's why imagination cannot be ignored as Patricia McKillip wrote above, regardless of circumstance. To me it was and is a wide-eyed monster that never sleeps and must be fed constantly. Whether growing up with violence, or a much more stable and loving environment, one that the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I have been able to provide for our girls, our imaginations have boded well for us for thousands of years of evolution and survival. It's helped us to innovate and problem solve and advance our fragile but resilient species as well as given us a powerful storytelling ability and varying filters and perceptions and differing ways to see and explain the world around us. We imagined gods and devils and reasons for living a good and just life.
Beatrice and Bryce have been imagining and articulating various worlds, creatures, science, inventions and stories since the very moment they could speak. Us encouraging imaginative play and reading, along with their teachers and others, have also helped to feed their creative beasts.
We just had a full moon and that evening the Mama said, "Since we have to spring forward with the time change, why don't we go down to the water before bedtime to see it. Otherwise it'll be lighter later and we won't be able to go."
At first I said, "Ugh. Really?" But I knew these were the moments to never let slip by, so I changed my tune.
"Okay, let's do it. It'll be fun."
The girls were excited, something adventurous to do before bedtime, so off we went. It had finally warmed a bit to our usual early spring nice weather, and the night was lovely. As we walked along the water with the girls running ahead of us, they began to imagine stories about the moon and the stars.
Bea came up with her own folk story, one about a dog named J.J. who stole a rocket ship from an unnamed man. J.J. flew to the moon in the rocket ship, not because he wanted to be an astronaut, but because he thought the moon was a waffle, and he was hungry and wanted to eat the waffle. (Both girls love pancakes and waffles.)
However, he soon found out that the moon wasn't a waffle at all -- it was just a big yucky rock glowing in the night sky -- so J.J. spit out the pieces, creating a meteor shower that lit up the night sky.
And this is why we have meteor showers. Right on, Bea.
That's when it struck me -- the fact that, this folk tale that Bea created from her own limited but pretty positive experiences to date and her own imaginative interpretation, was a metaphor for the beauty of life around us. Prevalent for some, fleeting for others.
And the fact that sometimes we all have to eat big yucky rocks to see the light.