One afternoon many months ago, I was going on a long walk in suburbia when I passed the elementary school. As I walked by I heard the shouts and laughter of the kids playing in the field. I don’t know if it was recess or P.E.; the majority of the kids were involved in a soccer game. But not everyone.
There were three little boys who looked to be about six playing off to the side, away from everyone else.
Two of the boys were fighting with imaginary swords, slashing and thrusting and parrying with unusual dexterity. They were so believable in their parody that I swear I could see the invisible swords clashing and clanging against one another as one boy drove the other back. They moved together as one, not pretending, not holding empty air — but actually engrossed in a spectacular show of swordplay. For the briefest of moments, I stepped into their world and they reminded me that it still existed. It’s amazing how much magic disappears from the world as you age, unless you really make a strong and concerted effort to hang onto it and treasure it. But it’s hard. Agreeing on one all-powerful reality becomes more important. We forget that reality is only powerful because it is subjective.
The third little boy that had disengaged himself from the soccer game was sitting alone under a tree, building a lopsided mud castle. I thought to myself, that was me. Forever the loner, I always wandered far off from all the other kids, lost in a fantasy world where the school no longer even existed. That tree off in the corner of the field? That’s where I spent all of my time. For a blessed twenty minutes I could pretend that the teacher wouldn’t be calling me back into hell where I had to sit quietly and write things I didn’t care about on paper for the rest of the afternoon. I had fresh air and blue sky and a million different worlds I could visit where I could meet all kinds of strange people that didn’t judge me for being different or try to tell me what to do. I could be anyone, do anything, go anywhere.
I’m still a dreamer. But I miss the dreams that I used to have when I was younger; they were so much bigger, so much less limited, so much more real.
It was nice to get a brief window back into that world. It reminded me that there are still areas in which a person should never have to grow up — and imagination is one of them.