My earliest remembrance of my childhood is sketchy, at best. There are snapshots of my much-loved and tattered “Lambie,” of an attic that was entered through a door in my room, of sleeping on the floor of my parent’s room when I was afraid, of the 3 to 4-foot-wide steps that connected the first and second floors, of our cocker spaniel, Penny, having puppies. I remember stories that I was told about those years and snapshots taken, but I don’t remember much about the people… only the pets and the “things” that surrounded me.
“Lambie” was my comfort in those early years and Penny, my companion. Due to medical problems beyond my mother’s control, I was an only child and when you are forced to play alone, your imagination grows up right along with you and fleshes itself out in very real ways. Instead of brothers and sisters sharing your room, creatures inhabit the underworld of your bed and the hidden recesses behind the unopened door of the attic. Fear took root early in my life and would take its toll despite the reminders that there was “nothing to be afraid of…” My parents couldn’t see the creatures and so, when they came, I dealt with them alone. “Lambie” always stayed with me and when things got too intense for sleep in my room, I sought refuge in my parents’ room. I learned not to make noise, because I would be sent back to the room I was wanting to escape, so I tiptoed to my dad’s side of the bed and fell asleep on the large grated heating register on the floor. Although not very comfortable, it was warm and reassuring to be where no “creature” would dare to come.
My days were almost as adventurous as my nights, although my daytime playmates were not spiders and snakes and other hideous night creatures. Daytime brought imaginary friends that caused my parents some concern. I would talk to my friends, since there was no one else, and they would talk to me. It didn’t matter that my parents couldn’t see these friends, because they weren’t able to see the fearsome creatures of my wakeful nights. I didn’t know, until my mother took me to the doctor, that these friends were not “normal.” The doctor reassured her that children with no siblings very often found “others” to play with and that I would outgrow it.
To be fair, when I was small, children were to be “seen and not heard,” so prattling on about imaginary friends and places was not met with anything but apathy or frustration. I’m not sure what comments were used or if I was ever spoken to directly, but I remember hearing things like “dreamer” and “vivid imagination” and “waste of time” and “She needs a friend!” I don’t recall the exact source of the criticism, but the strong work ethic in my mom’s Romanian and German roots took its toll on my daydreaming and coupled shame with an even greater need to be alone. I felt as if I were doing something improper but I didn’t know what. No one took the time to share with me that the British side of my heritage was immersed in great poets and story tellers and fiction writers. They probably never considered that, someday, my imagination might come in handy.
So, little by little, I stopped sharing, stopped imagining, stopped using my God-given gift and turned to physical challenges like playing ball and riding my bike and jumping rope and climbing everything I could find. As I began to meet “real” friends, my daydreaming took on new forms like seeing shapes in the clouds or “counting” the stars or pretending to be Annie Oakley or Peter Pan or my mother as I donned her discarded dresses and high heels. I sang with my records and danced around the room, always hoping that this grand imaginary time would never end… but it always did. It was all part of growing up… or so I was told.
By the time I was eight, my dad was selling life insurance and was able to spend much more daytime with me than he had in my early years. He became my champion, my encourager, my hero and my very dear friend. My parents both had lovely voices, but my dad’s rich baritone made him the soloist of choice at most of the family weddings. And so, I would fall asleep thinking about singing on a great stage and falling in love with someone just like the current Disney “prince”… or my dad.
As birthday after birthday passed, I took my imagination into choir, drama and English composition classes. Not a little girl anymore, I still lived and breathed in an imaginary world that no one else shared… except My Heavenly Father. He knew my gift and was ever-present to listen to my latest thoughts and dreams. As I became part of the prestigious All Philadelphia High School Choir and took the stage with some three hundred other students I began to truly experience the dream. Places like the Academy of Music and Convention Hall became commonplace to me and singing solos in my own high school choir, and at church, became the norm. More and more drama parts were forthcoming and in my Senior year, I took the lead role of Laurey in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical production of “Oklahoma.” Even though this wasn’t a story I created, I could play the role the way I wanted… aside from the directors advice, of course. It was a dream come true!
The next fall I attended a Christian college and began to realize that, despite my experience, the church at large embraced song, but not drama. There seemed to be no room for “fantasy”… no room for anything but the “truth”… or each denomination’s version of it. So my voice grew stronger and my imagination grew weaker. As the years crept by, I forgot the joy of dreaming and settled into the joys of married life and motherhood. I never hindered the imaginings of you three children, but never really encouraged them either. Oh, we had the inevitable family plays as you and your cousins grew… Cinderella, Snow White and The Incredible Hulk starring the only male in a world of females! But I never wrote a play for you… or a story… or a song. It was as if a part of me had died, somehow, and I didn’t know how to revive it, so I regaled you three little actors and passionately read you bedtime stories and listened to your dreams, all the while resisting the urge to imagine that my gift would make a difference to anyone but me.
Years have gone and in their place are memories… some stronger, some weaker. They beckon to be remembered… they long to be set free on paper. Each time I get a glimpse of another memory, the dreams also flicker and glow, happy to illuminate the path of the writer and, hopefully, the reader.
At this special time of life when children have their own children and the squeals and laughter of grandchildren sometimes seem to lift the roof, God has reminded me that one is never too old to use his or her imagination… to dream of the “Once upon a time” or the “Someday” or the “Happily ever after.” It is God, you see, who desires these things. It is He Who created the dreams and the fulfillment of them.
So, Dear Ones, dream of all the possibilities in the world… in the universe… in your own heart… and trust that God will rejoice over you with song as, together, you make them come true!