The Imaginations of Children

This past weekend I saw my niece—also known as the Most Adorable Niecey on the Planet—and she spent a good amount of time being her charming, four-year-old self. Since my sister recently moved a few hours away, I often find myself missing the little munchkin for quite a while after I see her.

Today I happened to remember some of the exuberance my Niecey shared as she showed me her dolls, shoes, hair, and jewelry. She, like most children, has a vivid imagination, as well as a high-pitched zeal with which she loves to share her young, open-minded ideas. On any given day I can probably recount ten favorite memories, but today I thought I’d share just one.

About two months ago, the Most Adorable Niecey stayed overnight, and in the morning she tapped me gently on the shoulder. “Auntie Eva,” she whispered, “it’s time to wake up.” Groggy and somewhat delirious, I managed to wake—albeit slowly—as she explained that it was time to play Princess.

“Princess!” I said, rubbing my eyes. “How do we play that?”

“Well, I’m the Pink Princess,” she said, waving her hands in the air. “I have a pink dress, a pink crown, and a pink wand. I also have pink jewelry!” she squealed proudly, pointing at her bare (but remember, not really bare) fingers and wrist. “It’s time for you to get up, so you can be the Purple Princess.”

“Oh my!” I said. I propped myself up on the pillows. “How do I do that?”

“First, we have to put on your purple dress. Sit up.” I did, and she proceeded to simulate sliding the dress over my head. “Now for your purple crown and wand.” She placed the crown on my head and the wand in my hand, smiling proudly as she adjusted the way I held it. “You have to hold it this way for spells,” she whispered.

“Oh thank you,” I said. “What’s next?”

“Well of course you need purple jewelry. Hold out your other hand.” She slid the imaginary rings onto my finger and clasped a bracelet around my wrist. “I’ll give you your shoes when you get out of bed. Now come down here,” she said, wriggling to the floor and pointing at a two-by-two area on the carpet. “This is my pink castle. And over there is your purple castle. Hurry! You have to get there fast, the dragon is coming!”

“Ick!” I shrieked, jumping out of bed. I climbed over to the area she designated as my purple castle, and then she tossed over my purple shoes. (Yes, she actually simulated tossing over a pair of shoes.) “Do I have to stay here?” I asked.

“You can come over here,” she said, lifting a warning finger. “But you have to move very quickly, and you’re only safe if you wear the purple shoes. Put them on, fast, and come to the pink castle!”

Naturally, I did, and then scooted over to her castle. Clearly, it was the place to be!

We played for a while like this as she told me about all the creatures in the land (the dragon, some magical cats, an enchanted forest, even more glittering purple and pink jewelry!), and eventually my need for coffee won out. “Sweetheart,” I said, “I’m just so tired, I fear the dragon will catch me because I’m moving too slowly. I really need coffee.”

“Silly Auntie Eva, I can make you coffee here in the pink castle!” she laughed, whirling her hands around until she produced a cup of coffee. Not quite real enough for my taste, but I let it slide for another ten minutes until I convinced her Auntie Eva’s kitchen was a safe place away from evil dragons, and that eating pancakes would give her strength to fight them off.

It’s a silly story, true, but the way she weaved her imaginary world captivated me. Each time I see her, she has created some romantic tale of fantasy and magic, a world she wants to involve everyone in. It’s a gift that most children have in their early years, making our already interesting world so much more amazing, colorful, and even a little more magical.

For some scientific reason we tend to lose this ability as we get older, both in our loss of fantastical thinking and in our hesitation to express these ideas. It’s a shame, really—but also the reason so many of us turn eagerly to the wild creativity we see in books and movies, hoping, if only for 300 pages or two hours, we might recapture our ability to run free through someone else’s imaginative musings. These pieces capture us in a world we might otherwise not experience, letting us imagine that we, too, are still the Pink and Purple Princesses (and Princes) of our youth. Those memories may be buried deep within, but somewhere in your mind and heart you might remember these moments bringing a smile to your face…so don’t forget to let them out every once in a while to play.

*** A giant kiss to my adorable niecey V! ***

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About Eva Rieder

Eva Rieder is a speculative and contemporary/mainstream fiction author. By day, she masquerades as a high school Math and English teacher. Though she adores teaching and her students very much, when Eva returns home she reglues her fingertips to the keyboard to pursue her alter ego’s destiny. She currently lives and writes in Northern California with her two keyboard-savvy cats. View all posts by Eva Rieder

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