This post is in response to the weekly writing prompt over at Studio30Plus, don’t hesitate to go there and see all the wonderful writing being shared.
“I can believe anything provided it is incredible.” ~Oscar Wilde
As a child, I can remember being able to entertain myself for hours on end well before there was an Internet to surf, or video game consols, or really anything resembling the electronic devices kids are inundated with today. I was lucky enough to have a fairly expansive wood behind the house I grew up in, complete with a great spring fed creek, rocks to climb over, and even some smallish cave-like areas, if memory serves. I spent much of my time playing there, pretending to be an army man, or one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, or a jungle explorer, or a treasure hunter. In the beginning, I didn’t even need toys to complete the scenarios invented in my head. The right stick or branch, and I had my rifle, sword, shovel, bow, and adventuring staff.
This is not to say that my parents deprived me of material playthings, books, or a fair share of television, just that my earliest pleasures could be created solely through my imagination. I believe it’s part of what ultimately led me to so deeply enjoy reading, writing, and languages both real and fabricated. I loved being able to get lost in a book or short story and often upon finishing a new chapter be outside re-enacting my favorite scenes, or inspired to create new characters in my head who might be an unwritten part of those tales, ones the original author just hadn’t discovered yet. I wrote some of those stories down, others I shared out loud with my closest friends. We hoarded some of those ideas, because they were SO magical, held such reverence for us, we didn’t want to lose them.
I owe make-believe for much of the enjoyment of my childhood, and yet, as we grow older, it seems society finds more and more ways to discourage us from it:
“Come back to reality.”
“Welcome to the Real World.”
Thankfully though, no one has yet stopped writing books, making movies, or creating fictional television, and so make-believe lives on. I can be glad for make-believe perhaps giving me a little comfort in the face of real, adult inconveniences and troubles.
There came a time when my friends and I spent a bit less time romping through the woods and more of it seated around the kitchen table hunched over hand draw maps, dice, miniature figurines and role-playing booklets. We brought to life many of the characters we once created in our heads with pencil and paper playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Aside from the obvious lack of physical activity and exposure to sunlight, those games were the same as our trips to fantasy worlds in the woods. Whether it was swords and sorcerers, or spies, snipers, hit-men, and souped up Cadillacs (pretty sure we played an RPG based around those things, Top Secret maybe?) Those worlds brought us make-believe in some of its finest forms at a time in our lives when we probably thought we were much too cool for make-believe. It’s been decades since I rolled any dice and traversed any paper dungeons, but I’m not too proud to say I played in those worlds.
Books and movies have always fueled the fires of make-believe burning inside me. I was 5ish when Star Wars first hit theaters. I think I’ve seen that movie now some 80+ times, and I’d watch it again today. My mother’s paperback copy of The Hobbit became dog-eared and ragged from all of my thumbing through it, over and over. Yes, I commandeered that tome and it’s here on my shelf now, though I have a feeling she still has my copy of The Silmarillion. I wondered where that went, lol. I feel like once I hit High School I lost a little of my faith in make-believe. There was no time for it when we had to have secret beer drinking parties, go to football games, and just generally try (and fail!) to look cool to the girls. I fear I would’ve stopped reading altogether then, had it not been for class requirements. Thank God for my English teachers from 6th through 12th grades who continually rekindled my love for books with such passion that now for a good part of my adult life I’ve wanted to become a teacher and a writer.
Even today, as an almost 40-year-old, divorced dad, make-believe maintains a foothold in my life. My daughter has been a reader for years, and my heart swells with pride each time I hear about her writing skills in school, and most recently the award she won for being The Most Creative Author in her 3rd Grade class! Through school, she’s been writing and self-publishing her work since she was in 1st Grade and it prompted me to dig out (yes, I still have them) the “books” we made in 3rd Grade. I don’t think she was very impressed! While mine was cardboard and hand stitched, hers are done digitally, printed on the school’s computers, and bound with plastic combs. My fantasy games and RPGs were originally all done by hand as well, and now her’s are on the computer or some handheld device via WiFi.
Time marches on. Technology improves by leaps and bounds, almost daily. Despite the World’s best efforts, or perhaps because of them, depending on your perspective, make-believe is still churning away, roiling and foaming like the great blue seas. Eroding the shores of worry at times, carrying us away to friendlier ones when we need to escape.