Who seeks Fantasy? Children? Or Adults?
September 19, 2012
One of my friends of forty years once said to me about twenty years back, after going to a fantasy movie with her young son, “Kids don’t need fantasy; adults do.” And we both laughed. Young kids still know the birds talk to you if you’ll listen. They know imaginary friends aren’t necessarily imaginary. And they trust everything will be just fine.
That’s why they smile when they wake up, bounce when they walk, and pat your face when they see you sad. Until they are submerged by words, they know the world as a fantastic affair that happens for them every day.
That’s why I have always loved reading “kid’s books,” the classic literature supposedly written for our children. Wind in the Willows, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Charlotte’s Web, The Velveteen Rabbit, and my all-time favorite, Winnie-the-Pooh. Watch who cries more, laughs harder and smiles most, you or the child you’re reading to.
In our head-long rush to grow up, especially these days, what we abandon is the part of us that knows the world as whimsy, that part of us that expects a bird to sit on our shoulder or a bunny to nibble our toes.
I don’t think we mean to leave these possibilities behind us, but in the grown-up world we’re offered, suddenly we have doubts about all sorts of things, how pretty we look, how strong we can be, and how innately smart we are. Then fear comes to own us, and the soft, sweet world of childhood hardens into a world of us and them rather than family of Life we knew it as before. As Mary Oliver points out in her poem, “The Lilies Break Open Over the Dark Water,”
But the lilies
are slippery and wild—they are
devoid of meaning, they are
simply doing, from the
deepest spurs of their being,
which they are impelled to do
And so, dear sorrow, are you.
Only what we become impelled to do is doubt our whimsy, relinquish are awareness of what we truly are, and believe plodding is more appropriate than bouncing through our day. It is a belief, only a belief. There are no facts to support that choice. So when we open a child’s storybook, that’s why our heart quickens, because that author gives us permission once again to remember that once upon a time never grows old.
In our day job, we own a small photography business that photographs children at childcare facilities. Last year, we designed a set for Winnie the Pooh, and the kids love it. But they’re not the only ones, for one night our thirty-something-year-old photographer and her sixty-six-year-old friend, me, found ourselves role playing with all the folks from the Hundred Acre Woods and laughing ourselves silly. One of the poses we designed is the photo you see here. I tell the parents of the kids, “Be sure your child takes this one with them when their leaving home to start their own lives.” For I would love fewer of us to lose our love for fantasy.
We’re writers. We hold the power to tell the tales that either confirm life as we now know it or suggest that there are other ways it could be. In this strange new age of writing and publishing, where angst, frustration and doubt are so near, let us turn to the wisdom of Christopher Robin and post it where we can always see what he so aptly asked of Pooh Bear:
Promise me you’ll always remember
you’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
For would a little boy or a little Bear lie?
Christina Carson is author of Suffer the Little Children.