When I was little, I absolutely loved the Chronicles of Narnia. My dad read the series aloud to us kids several times, and once I learned to read I read them through additional times myself. I memorized the stories and acted them out with my siblings. I always played Susan, of course.
Sometimes we would go to Narnia through the pools, just like in Magician’s Nephew. We made the yellow and green rings out of wire and beads, and used them to take that journey. We held onto them like they were magic tokens, taking us to an imaginary world. We created story lines and acted out fantastical adventures.
I think there’s something about being a kid and creating imaginary worlds. Oh, it’s not that adults can’t create such worlds. It’s just that they’re generally too busy handing everything adults have to handle to invest the amount of time into that children can. (It’s also more acceptable for children to walk around pretending that cardboard boxes are reindeer than it is for adults to do so.) The memories I have of running through the backyard with my siblings, wielding imaginary swords and fighting off the White Witch or heading out on an imaginary ship towards the Lone Islands are ones I will treasure forever.
Today, I am the adult with children of my own. Today, it is my daughter Sally who travels to imaginary worlds. But they’re not, well, the same worlds I traveled to. See, I had yellow and green rings; Sally has a TARDIS.
Sally and I made her TARDIS out of a cardboard appliance box. We cut out doors and painted it blue, carefully outlining the paneling and the windows. We even recorded the TARDIS sound effect so that Sally can play it when she gets inside. We painted the TARDIS controls on the inside of the box. Sally loves her TARDIS. And of course, along with the TARDIS had to come a screwdriver. A miniature flashlight did the trick.
It’s fascinating to watch Sally do the same imaginative sort of things I did when I was a child. She tells me where she is going and then gets into her TARDIS, closes the door, and plays the TARDIS sound effect. When she gets out, everything is something it’s not. “I need to figure out what’s wrong,” she says, and insists on being called Doctor. Sometimes she saves Christmas. Sometimes she finds aliens in her favorite children’s museum, and gets rid of them. Sometimes she repeats old adventures. What the green and yellow rings were for me, the TARDIS is for Sally.
As her baby brother grows, Sally will probably include him in her adventures as well. And over time, Sally will probably enter additional imaginary worlds. I plan to read both the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter aloud to her, and when she’s older she’ll likely read The Lord of the Rings. She’ll also watch Star Wars. I expect she’ll have a rich childhood of imagination and adventure, and like her mother, she’ll probably never entirely lose her love of imaginary worlds. To be honest, our capacity for a vast imagination is one of the things I love most about being human.
How about you? What imaginary worlds did you visit as a child? What imaginary worlds do your children visit, if you have them?