Tuesday, 8 June 2010

There Are So Many Colors In The Rainbow

Scrumptious has two new friends. Chloe lives in China and Clara lives in Candyland which is, apparently, a 2-day trip from London. Chloe and Clara are Scrumptious’ imaginary friends. My only explanation for their land of origin is that there was far too much crispy duck and chocolate in the breast milk. The biggest surprise is that neither one of these imaginary friends lives on a vineyard in Puglia.

When Chloe and Clara made their debut a few weeks ago, my husband and I shared a knowing glance across the dinner table. Here we go again, the look said. We’d all but forgotten that, at the same age, Truly had an imaginary friend named Alice who lived in a palace. For a few years, Alice jetted around from one exotic location to the next but still managed to spend a fair amount of quality time with Truly in our humble abode. If these friends were real, we’d be hard-pressed to off-set their combined carbon footprints. It would take more effort than my weekly delivery of an organic vegetable box or our hybrid. But Chloe and Clara are invisible and imaginary, seen only by Scrumptious, just as Alice was for Truly.

My husband, Truly and I go along with Scrumptious and don’t try to dispute her claim that these friends have joined us for a Sunday roast or love to play Legos and Groovy Girls just as much as Scrumptious. We know that, eventually, the friends will move on and this too shall pass.

My husband and I are the type of parents who celebrate Scrumptious’ fertile imagination and if we’re wrong to do that and there’s a whole team of experts who say differently, then I don’t care to know about it. That’s why I’m still kicking myself for mentioning the imaginary friends to another mother, merely an acquaintance really, a woman whose brow puckered in dismay. She wasn’t comfortable with the topic and brought up a whole slew of ‘issues’ that I might want to explore further, even going so far as to slap on a few child-friendly labels. Depression. Loneliness. In her words, ‘It’s not normal.’ There is nothing on this planet that gets my juices flowing more than the words ‘not normal’ when referring to kids or people in general. How does one define normalcy? In this case, I suspect the woman was her own role model for ‘normalcy.’

Later, thinking about this woman’s reaction, one song played over and over in my head. When my sister and I were young, my mom used to play a song called ‘Flowers are Red’ by Harry Chapin. Every time we heard the song, my mom would tell my sister and me how sad the words made her feel. I was too young and never really got it then. But I get it now. Honestly, read the words of this song or listen to it on YouTube and you will understand.

The only time I ever had a gripe with a teacher was many years ago when Truly wrote a story for school. Her teacher sent it back, all marked up with red ink and question marks. The teacher’s remarks were all negative and she gave Truly a low score because the story was ‘too fantastical.’ Huh? It was a creative writing assignment. I didn’t give a fig about the score but I was slightly alarmed that, potentially, one teacher could stomp on Truly’s creative writing style and turn it into a generic regurgitation exercise. Luckily, the teacher was very kind and receptive to my concerns. She explained to me that she set a specific assignment, with an end goal in mind and, although Truly missed the mark, she may have been too harsh and critical in the remarks section. Maybe the teacher had a bad day and got fed up with marking papers which is easy to understand but, happily, the rest of the year this teacher encouraged and celebrated Truly’s imagination without trying to curb it or fit it into a neat cardboard box. To this day, Truly creates wonderfully crazy worlds and believably eccentric characters who inhabit them, not square peg characters jammed unsuccessfully into ill-fitting round holes. And this makes me happy.

So I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always been attracted to the more eccentric characters, possibly because I don’t always fit into a box myself. The times I have tried to be what I thought was expected of me have been some of the most miserable times of my life. Who knows if I’m doing the right things by my own children but at least nobody will accuse them of being boring.

9 comments:

  1. The nerve of that woman!! Tell her this next time you see her "Research at London’s Institute of Education has found that children with imaginary friends are often more articulate, confident and creative." (first Google hit)

    So there!!

    Love the sound of Alice from the Palace! And what about Soren Lorenson in Charlie & Lola? The greatest character! She clearly has no imagination herself.

    The teacher at least saw the error of her ways. How mean to stamp her creativity out like that in terms of a 'goal.' I used to fill newsbook after newsbook at school with my stories and they sometimes said they were too long to mark.

    Lovely post.

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  2. I know I always get funny stares when people see my kids out in public because of their creative dress. I just don't see a reason to stifle their creative spirit when it comes to clothes. For goodness sake the 6 year old is in a uniform all week, it doesn't hurt to let her wear what she likes on the weekend.

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  3. My sister had the most wonderful imaginary friends as a kid, and she used to put me to sleep by telling me stories about them from her bedroom (next to mine). I didn't have any of my own (cue the logical brain setting in for the science career) but I sure felt like I knew hers after a while.

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  4. deer baby, I love that you googled it. The research goes a long way to explaining why I never had an imaginary friend! Although, maybe imaginary fictional characters count? We love Charlie and Lola and you're so right---how great is Soren Lorenson?

    Kat, you're absolutely right. When my older daughter was younger, I used to try and color-coordinate heroutfits but, somewhere along the line, I gave up the fight and let them choose their own combos. Let them stare!

    NFAH, I love the imagery of you and your sister in adjoining bedrooms, with her telling you stories about her imaginary friends.

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  5. Alice in the Palace! Lucky Alice!

    This is great writing. I love reading your posts (as always). I never had imaginary friends but I was always daydreaming myself into a movie--sometimes a real movie, sometimes one I made up. I was amazing--heroic, clever, witty, and of course everyone wanted to be my friend.

    I still have movie scene moments--kind of like your soundtrack moments. I'll be sitting in the car by myself thinking of an event or conversation and I begin a scene (outloud, sadly) where I say the most witty things (that I wish I had said in real life). Sometimes I will even press repeat on a particularly effective song on a CD for my delivery of the coup de grace.

    I wonder if I should have admitted to this... ;)

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  6. Michelloui, I'm sorry but I'm laughing so hard right now! I love to hear about your eccentric side and only wish I could be in the car that pulls up next to you at a red light to capture you mid-scene.

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  7. I love that song by Harry Chapin.. I work in a school full of creative imaginative exceptionally talented young ladies...
    cheers
    Dennis

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  8. I remember Alice who lived in a palace-how is she anyway? Harry Chapin brings back many fond memories from childhood, that song was always a sad one though. We thought that was just awful of the teacher! You definitely do not have to worry about a lack of creativity in Truly and Scrumptious.

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  9. Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites

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