Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Magic bursts through the darkness of the sky in gleaming spots of light, spots that might begin dancing at any time if you stared long enough. Just in case you didn’t believe, once in a while one would streak across the canopy and disappear. Your eyes weren’t certain they’d seen it, and maybe nobody else with you did. It was a memory created for you alone. Perhaps no one else on the face of the earth had witnessed precisely that meteor…
Our kids were old enough to begin being cynical. Anything that didn’t require batteries was probably not worth attention. They sat in sullen silence in the back seat of the car, wondering if they dared ask how long this latest parental notion might last. We had left the highway and any interesting shops behind long ago.
“Just a few minutes now,” their father answered the question they hadn’t asked. “We’re almost there.”
“Where?” asked the boy, peering at the endless rows of corn on either side of the road. “Where are we, anyway?”
“We’re in outer space!” replied the man, turning the car down a dirt service road that ran between the harvested corn rows. “Do you see the stars? We need them to navigate. Our navigation equipment is down.”
“They’re beautiful!” sighed the girl. “They look brighter here.”
“…Because we’re away from the city lights,” provided the boy, trying not to sound too interested. “What do you mean ‘our navigation equipment is down’? Aren’t we in someone’s field?”
Suddenly the road before the car went dark. The children gasped. The father had turned off the headlights. “Dad!” they cried out in unison.
“We’re in space! We’ve reached altitude!” cried the father, increasing the brightness of the dashboard illumination so it glowed bright green in the gloom. “Do you see any enemy ships?” He made the sound of lasers shooting—his own kind of sound—as he flicked the door locks on and off. “Did we get him?”
The boy couldn’t remain aloof any longer. “Yes. He’s gone, but there’s another one!” he exclaimed, making his own laser shot with his door lock. “I got it!”
The car lurched forward a few feet and made an abrupt stop. “I think we’re safe here,” whispered the father. “We’re hidden by the blue moon.”
“No! There’s another one!” cried the girl.
The car lurched forward again as the boy shot more lasers into the blackness.
I don’t know how many aliens we dispatched that night, but we had as much fun as Disneyland could provide at a far lower cost. We had the secret ingredient that transformed Walt Disney into a wealthy, famous man. We had imagination. Not only did it take us into outer space without rocket fuel or batteries, but it also brought us together as a family. It gave us fun and increased the sense of love we had for one another. We made a memory none of us will ever forget.
Creativity blossoms when you take breaks, immerse yourself in unfamiliar places, do even ordinary tasks in an extraordinary way. Have you ever taken a dramatically different route home—even if it was out-of-the-way? Or tried to learn something you’d never tried before—dancing, yoga, sculpture, painting? Doing the unexpected reminds us that life is what we make of it. Adventures await in the most boring of places. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Some of our favorite family dinners were picnics on the floor of the living room—complete with construction paper ants–or royalty dinners. Royalty dinners (that later became pre-dinners for the Academy Awards on TV) required that everyone wear quantities of jewelry (holiday decorations were allowed as substitutes) or large bowties fashioned from whatever we had on hand. (The dog wore a Windsor knot.) Since we suffered a shortage of evening gowns, nightgowns sufficed nicely. We spoke only in sincere, if clumsy, British accents. Dinners such as those helped our family survive what could have been emotionally devastating times.
As adults, we sometimes forget growing up isn’t mandatory. Being mature and responsible doesn’t necessitate being dull. My husband and I took our family to explore the wilds of a path around a state park. (Yes, we were certain we saw dinosaurs—that our grandson could name correctly, by the way.) My husband and I have gone dancing in a mountain meadow. We pretended to be rich enough to indulge our wants (in my case, a particular sculpture I loved that would have cost me a year’s salary) and ended up taking home the business card of a salesperson from the art gallery who believed we could make it happen. (We didn’t try to fool him; he was over-zealous. We simply wanted to experience financial freedom—without the bills.) We often “buy” one another dream gifts for holidays: “Honey, I know how much you love trains, so I bought you a trip across Europe on the Orient Express—your own car, of course.”
One of my favorite shows my grandchildren invented for me involved acting out the birth of a new Tyrannosaurus from an egg (that looked suspiciously like the sofa throw) to the joy of the mother who needed to teach him to forage in spite of his tiny forearms. When I worry that school will crush my grandchildren’s imaginations, I remember that we as parents and grandparents can preserve and grow creativity. Where do you wish you could be right now—if you could be anywhere in the world, doing anything at all? If you think yourself there, research says you’ll find new ways of looking at all sorts of real problems that might have appeared insoluble. You just needed a good shot of imagination.