A friend at school commented that I am patient and good with the children. I had to explain to her that it’s not as amazing a thing as she thinks. I’ve said before that the kids are my peer group, and that wasn’t meant ‘tongue in cheek.’ I am often more comfortable with the kids than most adults I know and for a reason that is very important in my life: the kids and I take our pretending very seriously.
Pretending is not what you think, dismissing it so easily as a childish bit of fun. There’s a reason why Dorothy’s world is black and white until she gets to Oz. I so often encounter people who have forgotten how wonderful living can be or who are dismissive of reveling in the ‘what if’s’ of life. Reality actually exists–really and truly–in two different universes at the same time: the one of the mundane and the one of possibility. Pretending is not just a game. It is a philosophy of living and it gives your life a richness that is often lost in that wasteland of adolescent angst between childhood and adulthood, just like Dorothy’s ruby slippers drop off in the desert between Oz and Kansas.
Kids get it. They really want to know what super power you would most like to have, and they believe that if you are willing to try hard enough you can get it. They accept that George Lucas is just relaying the story of the events in ‘a galaxy far, far away,’ and have no doubt that such things are actually happening somewhere. They get the concept of the hero way better than most adults who casually call someone a hero without realizing that bravery and sacrifice are super powers. Children are able to live on that plane of existence where a person can actually see the spirits that adults only wish were real, i.e. Santa Claus, fairies, leprechauns. Unfortunately monsters and demons also have a corner of that realm and children are terrified to see them crossing easily into our world, whereas adults seem to always be surprised.
Pretending for me? I’ll believe in anything. True love is a big one. I believe that a man inspired by true love–even if his princeliness comes and goes with the ebbs and flows of life–can machete through an impenetrable wall of briar vines to be with his soul mate. I believe that true love’s kiss can awaken the princess in any girl/woman even though she may not look very princess-like (or even if she is 54 years old and her prince’s back aches after spending a day casting a fishing rod). I can still dress ‘for the ball’ to capture the attention of my prince, even though the vision in the mirror is most definitely NOT ‘the fairest of them all.’
That said, I’m not so much into pretending I’m a ‘pretty young thing’ any more. That ship sailed a long, long time ago. Now I am more likely to pretend that I am wise and prophetic and that people listen to what I have to say because it is full of good advice (stop laughing; I’m baring my soul here). I pretend that people just show up at my door to sit at my table because the love in my food soothes the spirit as well as restoring the body. I pretend that people read my stories and are not only lifted out of their everyday lives, but also find truths they already knew but didn’t have words for until I put them on paper. Sometimes I imagine myself sitting at a table at DragonCon and having people come up to tell me that they loved reading my books and ‘when will they see the next one?’ (Some of you guys have given me that great gift without the booth at DragonCon, fulfilling a writer’s most dearly held dream. Thank you.)
And I pretend with my kids that they are part of the Star Wars universe–why not? Why can’t there be real pods and why can’t they be exceptional at racing them? I pretend with them that the Marvel universe is possible. Why couldn’t someone be bitten by a radioactive spider and be bestowed with its abilities? Why can’t a technical genius with unlimited funds create a suit that flies at super speeds? On a more earthbound note, why couldn’t the most popular, hot guys in the whole world–Justin Bieber, for example, or One Direction–show up at our school and be enchanted by the girls they meet there. They enchant me and a lot of the other people who work with them every day. Johnny Depp did visit that school in London based on a young fan’s letter asking how to conduct a mutiny, so why couldn’t Selena Gomez walk through our cafeteria door (after checking in at the office, of course) .
To adults who think pretending is child’s play, I say this. Try it. It will open your eyes to a world that is as real as your car, or your phone bill, or your mortgage, but is just out of sight for those who have forgotten to believe in extraordinary possibilities.