Last week, our granddaughters spent a few days with us. Addie who is 'almost four!' and whose language development is off-the-charts is at that wondrous stage of emerging imagination. One of her favorite requests is, "Tell me a story." Stories she knows about characters she loves are easy for re-telling - Nemo, Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs.
One afternoon, we were blowing bubbles outside and Addie stopped in
her tracks. "Tell me a story about a magic bubble." She supplied the
characters and in less than a minute, I had the rough sketch of a story
in my head - beginning, middle, and end, problem and resolution, setting
- all of it. Whoa. I told her my story and then dictated it into my
voice recorder for safekeeping.
The following day, the
same thing happened, this time with a story about 'a tree that's lost in
the woods.' Trying to picture how a tree could get lost, I asked about
the tree, could it walk and talk, like Tolkien's Ents. She said, "No,
silly. Trees don't walk or talk. They're just trees." Ah, well. But
again inside a minute, I had a story about a magic tree whose
whereabouts had been lost to the ages.
Then I turned it around on her. "Your turn to tell a story," I said. "Who is it about?" I'm proud to say she was the hero of her own story and she brought along a companion on her imaginary adventure, either her sister or her buddy Cole who lives down the street. I'd supply a detail or two, maybe the setting (a beach) or a problem (they lost their sand toys) and with a few 'and then what happened?' prompts, she'd take it from there. She is a great storyteller-in-the-making.
Ironic that this happened the week we lost one of our generation's great creative minds. When asked about how he came up with imaginative ideas in his classic rapid-fire style, the late Robin Williams once said it came to him as he watched his four-year-old playing with action figures. The child made different voices and personalities for each figure, creating villain-filled problems with hero-filled solutions. One of our generations greatest actors and comics said all he did was try to channel his inner four-year-old.
I'm thankful to have an imaginative four-year-old in my life too.