Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Stuff of Imagination

Henry is entering the age of fantasy. He creates worlds inside his own imagination. He can often be found playing in a corner of the house with whatever objects happen to be lying around. The other morning, he held two cheerios in his hands, using them as puppets.

“Are you my mama?” one Cheerio asked of the other.

“Yes, you are my little boy,” answered Mama Cheerio.

As the conversation between baby and Mama Cheerio continued, I remembered Luke, around the age Henry is now, telling long and fantastical stories. But Luke’s imaginary world always seemed more anchored in big, mythological narrative. Luke’s plot lines involved good and bad guys, rescues, the slaying of dragons. Greek myth.

Henry’s imagination is sometimes just bizarre.

The other day I asked Henry to please stop kicking me. Without missing a beat and without a hint of a smile on his face, he asked, “Or you will throw me into a lake?”

He often comes up with ideas whose origins I can’t imagine. While we were driving a couple of weeks ago, Henry saw a man in his yard using a weed whacker.

“What is that man doing?” Henry asked.

“He is using a machine to cut weeds in his yard, but it is not for children to use,” I answered.

“I used that once when I was a man,” Henry replied.

“Oh, you were a man?” I asked.

Again, without so much as a pause, Henry explained, “One day a fairy turned me—poof!—into a man. And then I used that machine.”

While Henry’s fantasy world is often confusing and seemingly random, it has occurred to me that it reflects Henry’s personality in the same way that Luke’s narratives reflect his. Henry has always been riveted by details, personal interactions, tone of voice. Henry focuses on people, often so intently that he runs into walls, tumbles down stairs, trips on his own feet. His legs are covered with bruises.

This morning, the boys each put on a puppet show. Luke’s involved knights slaying dragons, then conquering the Cerberus to enter the underworld. (Yes, Luke owns a plastic Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the underworld of Greek Mythology. It was at the top of his Christmas list the year he was four.)

Henry’s show featured three dragons. And yet there was no slaying.

“Green dragon, will you be on my team?” one green dragon asked another.

“Yes. We are two mans on the same team,” the other green dragon replied.

Then a red dragon stepped in: “Can I be on your team?”

“Yes,” the first dragon replied. “We are a team with two green mans and one red woman dragon.”

And that was the show, folks.

I think that Henry’s focus on human interaction and nuance might be why he has been so much more interested in princesses and clothing than Luke ever was. Henry is intrigued by gender. He sees the differences between girls and boys and men and women. He is interested in teams, in what kinds of people are friends, in what type of people do what types of things.

How wonderful that I have one child to help me focus on the vistas, the overarching narratives, the archetypes, the myth, and another child who will turn my gaze toward the nuances of individual human emotion and interaction, toward the butterfly on the flower right before my very eyes.


so yung said...

I simply love this.

I cannot help but wonder if Henry's delving into the intimate is partly possible because Luke lays out the universal for him. How wonderful and quirky that Luke and Henry complement each other in this way. And even more wonderful that you, Ser, notice and share with us.


so yung said...

Oh, and Thank You for the picture. It's perfect.

Beck said...

I love the big wide-open spaces of little kids' imaginations..

Beck said...

I love the big wide-open spaces of little kids' imaginations..

Mara said...

This picture is fantastic. As are the wonderful snippets of your interesting life with my sweet little nephews. love you guys.

auntie mara