My mom has the best imagination! She’s always making unique things for my kids, or coming up with fun games for them to play. I love that she has passed along this part of herself by instilling in her kids (all five of us) and in her grandkids a love of the mysterious, the magical, and the mischievousness of life.
Here’s her latest achievement…
The boys are really into pirates right now, especially my oldest. He has read Treasure Island, along with many other pirate books, and watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Inspired by these imaginary worlds, he makes weapons and various pirate necessities out of cardboard…a flintlock pistol, a cutlass, a spy glass, a compass that opens and closes, sheaths to hold his weapons and whatever else he can think of. He’s so into it that he recently ended up with three nasty blisters from cutting the cardboard (it’s really thick cardboard and the scissors are dull, from cutting cardboard) and plans to continue tonight despite the blisters.
Anyway, my mom drew up a pirate map of our yard and woods, putting in various landmarks to show the way. She then took an old purse and filled it with real coins, gold-painted nuggets and various ‘jewels’ that you can buy at your local craft store (but which are very pretty and sparkly). I, of course, was in on the scheme. This morning I hid the purse where X marked the spot, then pretended that I ‘found’ the map, which she had roughed up to look real. I made sure to announce my discovery right before lunch so while they ate, they had plenty of time to contemplate about how the treasure map had gotten there, where the treasure might be, and most importantly, time to grow more and more excited at the prospect of finding it. After some questioning (and some time to concoct a better story), I told them that I had found the map on top of a bush so the person had probably accidentally dropped it as they hurried to get away. Maybe, I ad-libbed, the pirates, or whoever it was, had just dropped off the treasure and would be returning for it - at any time. We had to move quickly, I added, and we’d better be armed.
My 8-year-old pirate wannabe was all over that.
The map was fairly simple to follow and they soon figured out the vicinity of where the treasure might be. My 3-year-old was actually the one to find it, though, because he was the only one listening to my ‘hints’ about where it could be, according to the map. My older two kept going the wrong way. I wouldn’t have minded them searching the area for however long it took, except that the mosquitoes were out in droves and we were getting eaten alive (there’s that dratted reality again). Once we found the treasure, in a hole between the twin trees and covered with leaves, we hurried back to the house with our booty. It was definitely a treasure to behold. There were three pirate pistols, eye patches, knives and hooks…not to mention a lot of loot. The kids spent the rest of the afternoon playing pirate, though we had to work hard to convince my youngest that he could just leave the treasure chest sitting in the house while he went out to play. He was feeling a little possessive of it (he’s even sleeping with it tonight).
Thanks to my great mom, my husband and I had fun being kids again and my kids had fun just being kids. My 8-year-old was a little skeptical at times (what a coincidence that there’s three of everything, he noted, though my husband said there were probably three pirates) and asked some questions that told me he’d figured out it was probably grandma who’d done this. Still, he backed off pretty quickly on the questions each time he came close to the truth. He really wanted to believe in the magic of a treasure left behind by pirates, even in the face of evidence to the contrary (unless his sweet granny really is one - that’s always a possibility).
Every day I’m learning just how important it is to encourage our children to believe in the wonders of life. With all the bad news from the war and school shootings and terrorism and gang violence, our society has lost its innocence. The younger you lose that spirit of wonderment, the harder it is to ever get it back. My hope for my children is that they will always see the beauty and wonder in life, even when they have to be responsible, boring adults.
As long as they keep Grandma’s imaginative spirit in their hearts, I know they will.