I am grateful for having an imagination. It was my life ambition to be a mermaid. I know what you’re going to ask: how did that turn out? Not well, I must confess. I am not the greatest swimmer and my hair is not long enough to do the mermaid thing properly and my voice doesn’t sound anything like Glynnis Johns. You don’t know who she is? Miranda. A classic mermaid movie first released in 1948. I wasn’t on the planet in 1948, but like I said, mermaid movies tend to become classics.
I think while growing up we often imagine a life different from our own, a different name, different hair colour, an only child or a herd of siblings, that sort of thing. I wanted to live underwater. My underwater home had all the comforts I required: a big easy chair, a huge clam shell to snuggle down into at night for a good sleep, a sea horse, all the usual trappings. The point is my imagination knew no limits, if a problem arose, I imagined my way out of it.
I watch videos of my grandsons. Re-runs. I have them stored so when I need to see their perfection I can tune a video in and feel as if I’ve just had a visit with them, was there when they learned to walk or when Aiden thought it was great fun to walk around with a garbage can over his head, a regular part of his day. In one video, Linden was buried in pillows on his mother’s bed and he was imagining. He had a book open on his lap that he was pretending to read while singing into his pretend microphone. He looked very happy while his mother took the covert film to send to me. Linden was two at the time and he hasn’t yet succumbed to organized play, team sports, lessons, school. His days are spent imagining. There are no video games consuming his attention. He is participating in the purest sense of play.
I wish they didn’t have to grow up. I wish Linden could phone me from his bath mitt as he is inclined to do, another video that I will watch daily until I can’t. I wish Aiden could always perch on the top step of his special step stool pulled up to the counter while he stirs pancake batter imagining he is the chef in charge. I wish they never had to go to school, never had to change in any way, but then I said the same thing when they were days old, when they could snuggle next to my ear while I purred at them, breathing them in, sealed that smell in my memory for all time.
Imagining is good for our brain we are told by some in the medical profession. Letting our minds wander is a healthy pass time rather than a curse and we should embrace it. “Imagining activates brain regions that can unconsciously map your path to success,” says Dr. Srini Pillay, a Harvard Medical School assistant clinical professor.
I will share this opinion with “my boys” as they grow. Maybe when they are twelve or twenty-nine they will come with me to my mermaid house, will curl up in my clamshell or on my comfy chair. Maybe we will swim and float and do all the things that mermaids and mermen do. Maybe we will race the dolphins and guide boats away from the rocks. If only it were so.