you sit in this room
and play with toys:
rapt in imagination,
the floor turns into
woods and creeks,
as you, in combination
with songs you've heard
and words you know,
tell how, out past the swingsets
there's a tale of fall,
and a magic train,
and a magic prince and princess
As a kid, I was frequently told by my parents that imagination was better than toys. I thought that the ideal combination was to perhaps have some of both, but that wasn’t a viewpoint my parents found particularly productive. So I would head out in the yard to “use my imagination”.
As I have watched my grandchildren (currently ages 16 months to 10 years) grow, it is interesting to to see the different ways in which their imaginations manifest. Or the different things that might kindle their imaginations.
I told three of them a story a few years ago about going to get a ball that went over the fence as a kid, and finding a stairway in a tree in the neighbor’s yard that led to a humongous underground cavern with a city in it.
They all remember that story. And they’ve modified it over the years with details of their own, which was the idea.
In many ways, stories belong to their hearers (or readers) more than their tellers (or authors) — something that can make earning a living as a storyteller rather difficult. The owners of fictional franchises with rabid fanbases often feel that those fanbases act a little more entitled than might be ideal. But, when you tell a good story, it will change people.
Because that’s what art does.