Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Imagine

Navigating childhood without an imagination made for a burden I couldn't shake.  I often watched my younger sister deliver Barbie story lines with a finesse that made me shrink with ineptitude.  There was little else in life that felt more futile to me than the sort of play which required dreaming up something that wasn't there. But it's not lava, but I'm not your daughter, but this rock is not a diamond my brain would retort.

I kept hitting my head against a wall where reality demanded none shall pass... or at least not Ashley Havin. And on the other side of that great wall, kids laughed at elaborate dreams detailed in color and exploding into the real life stage of the classroom or our basement floor. The turtles saved April.  The dragon burnt down the town. And I sat on the sidelines, totally stumped. I bumbled around my younger years feeling as if I would be found, an intruder foreign and all wrong, a child with no imagination like a person without a soul.

I'm pretending to drive my sister around. That's gotta count for something.
This is not to say my brain wasn't busy soaring other heights of grandeur, but my heights were often serious or deep, ill-fitting for an 8 year old.  When my parents were whispering secrets, probably about some family gossip or fun outing they were planning for the kids, I was sure they were keeping from me that next week on Tuesday the world would end.  I wasted much of my youth contemplating things like opposing perceptions, why marital affairs occur, and the anticipation of death when I should have been charming Ken with my high-pitched lines and flitting eyelashes. My inability to focus while playing "house" for more than 2 minutes before responding "huh?" to unfolding plot lines or bring with confidence a doll to my chest as if nursing were sure signs I was not equipped with the maternal instincts of my peers. That or I had some mental illness which hadn't yet been discovered.

Two decades later, I am a mom and still waiting on that mental illness diagnosis. Like a pilgrim arriving in America only to discover the ship brought him out of the frying pan and into the fire, I weaseled my way out of childhood sans imagination only to find it one of the most needed skills in motherhood.

First it was the great expanse of time I was gifted as mother to one. Mothering one means stepping in as some stand-in sibling because, last time you checked, there were none to push into the ring. I marveled at the first peek into Thomas's imagination in action, his cup offered to a stuffed animal tilting up and up as the creature stared blankly drinking it in and Thomas peering at me to see what he had done.  While the enchanting powers of my very son's brain on tap should've had me primed for all the "play" I had ever sadly missed during my own childhood, the last two years have offered an embarrassing number of encounters wherein Thomas asked to play with dinosaurs or in the fort or bring that bad guy to jail and I have all but begged him to read books with me instead.  I'm working on it.
B is for booger.
But secondly, and why I'm etching my imagine-less burden onto my blog, I've recently found that it's an imagination which offers joy within the tedious interplay of never ending shtuff of at-home-motherhood. I am my own boss.  I could aim for merely folding in each day with the quiet unpretentious flare of folding laundry. Day in, day out, and all the same. Dishes, meals, sleepless children passing in front of me like some cock-eyed conveyor belt that speeds up, slows down, or gets clogged but never stops. Or it could be that I dare to imagine.  And that's what I'm working on too.

I look outside and imagine a vision of my future herb garden to nudge that project higher on my to do list.  I tackle challenges like bringing all three boys with me out in public (one in the Moby, one in a pumpkin seat, and one two steps away from being run over by his mom) so I can unlock achievements in my imaginary video game wherein I'm addicted to boosting my gamer score. I pretend that today, just like my husband receiving praise for all his hard work with that Visa card and note of thanks that's still on our banister, someone cheered me on when I striped sheets at 3 am, shaved soap into the homemade detergent, and changed three poopy diapers in a row before nursing for an hour straight.

To imagine is to make real the unreal, to create from scratch, to stretch ourselves into foreign territories.  Shifting myself into mom of three and all the days to fill with housework and loving on littles and introducing one dinosaur to another with "Hey, how's your day?", I'm finding a little magic in the corners of my brain.  It might be that just like my flabby front, my imagination is not a lost cause. It's just been sorely neglected and is starved for attention. Maybe I can make-up in my adulthood what I lacked as a child, reigning in pretend time, marrying business with pleasure and finding ways to both laugh at the days and brighten them up with new visions.

Well, I'm off now to put this cause into practice.  And first up, I'll imagine I took a shower instead of writing this post.


  1. After seeing your paintings, I am surprised that you think of yourself as lacking imagination. Nevertheless, I feel your pain, for I too am mystified as to what power enables some people to conjure into their brains brand new creations--stories, melodies, artwork, inventions--from mere ether.

    Sometimes I feel discouraged because I feel as if all I can do is mimic and recreate other people's creations, but I take comfort in knowing that I possess talents such as project management and organization and attention to detail that those creative types sometimes lack, and those skills that I have, when utilized in an interdependent relationship with some really imaginative person, are what enable another person's dream to manifest into physical reality.

    1. Ashley, you provided such a great perspective on this and you said it so well, as you always do. I'm going to remember this as I go on my way, hopefully "enabling another person's dream to manifest into physical reality." In fact, I think that's exactly why I married Paul. He has a big imagination and I can help bring his vision to a concrete plan. Love this. Thanks!