Fantasy vs. Reality!
This has been one of my parenting challenges, as of late. You see, sometimes kids come to you to ask how certain things work (“Why does Dad have to go to work?” “Why do we keep the milk in the fridge?”) and other times they make little theories all on their own.
For instance, this past Fourth of July, Jeffrey was literally hopping with excitement over the fireworks display. (Ella cowered under a blanket during the whole affair, alas.) After enthusiastically joining in the show with his own rocket noises, he turned to me with a serious expression.
“Mom, are fireworks how new stars are made?”
Now, here’s the dilemma: I could correct him, tell him no, stars are born in big glowing gas clouds far out in space. But whenever I do this, I always feel as if the All Powerful Grown-Up Perspective were clamping down its big iron fist on the little flowering Kid View. There seems no better way to quash a kid’s imagination than to negate it at every turn. Who says that my world view is all that more valid, anyway?
“Um,” I answer. “What do you think, Jeff?”
“I think they do,” he says, his grin lit up with sparks.
“Oh?” I ask. “Just how do they get stuck up there?”
“Well. . . ” he replies, and he then launches into a lengthy explanation that I couldn’t understand very well, except for this bit at the end: “And then all the stars get together around the firework, and use their gravity to swing the new star up into the sky.” Having finished this little lecture, he then recommenced his tribal firework dance.
I remember a literature prof in college talking about William Blake’s “visionary gleams” — how as a child he would claim to have seen angels sitting in trees, or walking among field laborers. But his visions continued into adulthood — even at the age of fifty, he claimed to see the rising sun as “an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
Blake knew he was looking at the sun, my teacher explained. But he was always celebrating the power of the human imagination to superimpose itself onto the world, to see what is there and see what is not. This is an essential creative power, this ability to create stories, to make worlds. To see angels in the sun, and stars in a flash of gunpowder.