I grew up with Fraulein Maria singing to me whenever I was sick and home from school. My younger sister and I would lay on our lion and polar bear shaped body pillows in the middle of the brown carpet that covered our living room and diligently memorize every word to every song (and much of the dialogue) of “The Sound of Music” and then spend the rest of the day wishing we could grow up in a mansion in Austria. Sipping our 7-Up and eating jello, we’d imagine running through mountain top meadows in our beautiful dresses (with a seamstress mother, we really did have a lot of beautiful dresses that we wore quite often), and, when we were well, often re-enacted the puppet show scene by tying yarn to our dolls and dangling them into my grandparents’ dining room from the loft above. Needless to say, this classic movie was (and still is) one of my favorites.
My sister is 2 years younger than me and, instead of fighting and bickering like many siblings, we spent most of our time playing together and imagining alternative lives for ourselves. With our homemade dresses, love of reading, and our American Girl Dolls, we were alternately Anne of Green Gables and her bosom friend, Diana Barry, Laura and her older sister, Mary Ingalls, Kirsten or Samantha (2 of the original American girls), and (once my grandparents showed us the original Star Wars trilogy when we went to visit them) the independent and strong-willed Princess Leia. Instead of watching a lot of TV, we read or created our own stories in our backyard- activities strongly encouraged by our parents. They took to us to many different historical re-enactments including “Old World Wisconsin” and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, which is still one of my favorite vacations.
Laura and Mary Ingalls (with a penguin baby brother)
I often wish that my imagination was as strong now as it was when I was in grade school. Although I still read quite a lot, I was a voracious reader as a child (my husband thinks I was a nerd), and could easily dream up entire worlds where I was any number of unique and creative heroines. Now, my imagination seems to mostly focus on alternative life scenarios based upon various choices made. “What will my life be like in 5 years if I go back to grad school to get my Master’s degree in Architecture?” “What will my life be like in 5 years if I DON’T go back to grad school to get my Master’s degree?” “What will my life be like NEXT year if I don’t go back to grad school?” While I realize that this is an essential skill to have in order to make life decisions, I do miss the innocent, childish ability to invent stories and characters from thin air. I hope my future children will be as enthralled as I was in the world of stories and their imagination and in the meantime, perhaps it just takes some practice for adults to remember how to make believe…